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.
Survivor: ADHD Style!
Taking the theory in a slightly different direction are sleep-away camps like Talisman, a North Carolina program for children aged 9 to 17 with ADHD, as well as a variety of other learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Based on programs developed by the nationwide Aspen Education Group, Talisman has been ongoing for nearly a quarter of a century. Director Linda Tatapough says structure, discipline, and positive reinforcement are the keys to its success.
"Our programs are designed to be highly structured and highly supervised -- one big difference from your typical summer camp. But we feel this approach is important for children with ADHD because if you give them too much freedom there are just too many choices -- and that leads to problems," says Tatapough.
Although in the past Talisman's activities focused primarily on sports and leisure, this year they will incorporate skill strengthening, academic-related activities into the program as well. But Tatapough says what really sets their camp apart is a commitment to helping children recognize and work out their behavioral problems as they occur.
"We deal with issues in a group process, and whenever there's a problem, we sit down and discuss it right then and there -- the child learns to take immediate responsibility for their actions, and we talk about what can be done to change things in the future with more appropriate choices," says Tatapough.
Another active force: Encouraging the kids to work together toward a common goal that benefits all of them. "If we all work together to climb a mountain in three hours instead of six, then everyone benefits with more free time," says Tatapough. This, she says, encourages relating to peers and helps diminish feelings of isolation that many of these kids experience in their normal academic setting.
A bit bolder and somewhat more daring is a sleep-away summer program called SOAR -- Success Oriented Achievement Realized. A program for preteens, teens, and young adults with ADHD or other learning disabilities, you won't find any ceramics, computers, or other classroom activities here. Instead, summer life at SOAR is pure high adventure wilderness living, along the lines of Survivor -- at least in terms of coming face-to-face with the unexpected almost every day. And that, say experts, is the magic of what makes this program work.