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ADHD in Children Health Center

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A Summer of Fun for Children With ADHD

A variety of day and sleep-away camps are helping children with learning disabilities blossom like a summer flower.

Rewards and Self-Confidence

Yeah, but is it fun? Fleiss says definitely. "There is nonstop activity along with built-in reward systems that give the children something to work toward, so while we are building self-confidence, we are also keeping the kids active and entertained," she says.

The NYU program, which unfolds each year at a bucolic private school in Riverdale (about a 30 minute bus ride from Manhattan) is one of 17 treatment/fun summer "camps" across the U.S. and Canada modeled after a prototype created more than 20 years ago by William Pelham Jr., PhD, a psychologist from the State University of New York in Buffalo. Known as the STP or Summer Treatment Program, thousands of children have participated since it's inception in the 1980s, and, in fact, there are some interesting clinical data showing the approach does work.

In a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in 2000, researchers compared children with ADHD taking medication alone with those taking medication and participating in an organized summer treatment camp. The study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California at both Berkley and Irvine, showed those children on the combined medication and activity regimen far exceeded those on medication alone in various behavioral categories.

Bart Hodgens, PhD, director of the Summer Treatment Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is offering the STP approach at their day camp for 5- to 18-year-olds with ADHD for the first time this year. He says he has high hopes that local children will respond favorably.

"We have a very high counselor-to-camper ratio, a lot of individualized attention, and programs that are designed to allow the children to recognize and understand their behavioral problems and then come away with some skills needed to change them -- all while participating in a variety of carefully planned and structured daily activities," Hodgens tells WebMD.

Indeed, a typical day at an STP program looks something like this:

8:00 - 8:15 -- Social skills training
8:15 - 9:00 -- Soccer skills
9:00 - 9:15 -- Transition
9:15 - 10:15 -- Soccer game
10:15 - 10:30 -- Transition
10:30 - 11:30 -- Academic learning center
11:30 - 11:45 -- Transition
11:45 - noon -- Lunch
Noon - 12:15 -- Recess
12:15 - 1:15 -- Softball
1:15 - 1:30 -- Transition
1:30 - 2:15 -- Arts and crafts
2:15 - 2:30 -- Cooperative tasks
2:30 - 2:45 -- Transition
2:45 - 3:45 -- Swimming
3:45 - 4:00 -- Transition
4:00 - 5:00 -- Computer skills
5:00 - 5:30 -- Departure

"We plan every minute, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun -- the activities are structured in a way that allows the kids to be fully engaged at all times. Ultimately, they are not only entertained and occupied, they also learn important coping skills that work in all areas of their life," says Hodgens.

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