Summertime means warm weather is here; school is out, there are no grades to worry about, no homework to complete, schedules are looser, and the pool is open! For many families the free time of summer can be a welcome break from the school year routine.
On the other hand, the looseness of summer can create problems for families of children with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) whose kids do best in structured settings and can often lose gains in academic skills during the long school break.
Summer camps are a nice way to create structure for children during the day. These programs also provide fun, active social and learning opportunities. Unfortunately, many kids with ADHD require more external support, supervision, feedback and reinforcement in order to successfully manage their behaviors and navigate social situations. Specialized programs can provide that boost during the summer and allow kids with ADHD to have the same joyful summer camp opportunities.
North Carolina Summer Program for Kids
The North Carolina Summer Program for Kids is a highly structured, fun and supportive summer day camp program for 7 to 13-year-olds with ADHD. Located in Greensboro, NC, the program brings together two area leaders in helping families with ADHD: the AD/HD Clinic at the University of North Carolina Greensboro and Noble Academy. The highly trained staff is specialized in working with children with ADHD, as well as additional learning, behavioral, and emotional concerns.
"We are so pleased to offer the NC Summer Program for Kids because parents of children with AD/HD often have difficulty finding summer programming that fits their child's individual needs," says Dr. Jennifer Sommer who is Director of Behavioral Programming. "Our goal is to provide children with the same fun, recreational experience that they may receive in other camp settings, but within a highly structured, therapeutic context in which children with AD/HD thrive."
"What is great about the model that our program follows is that it is specifically designed around the needs of children with AD/HD," adds Dr. Kristen King, Assistant Director of Behavioral Programming. "To the children, it feels like a camp, but it's really a therapeutic day program designed to help children with AD/HD work on social, academic, and athletic skills and build self-esteem."
The behavioral program is built around a point system. "Children earn points throughout the day for good behaviors that we want to reinforce and lose points for behaviors we want to see decrease," explains Dr. King. "Other behavioral treatment components include instruction in social skills and group problem solving, daily report cards with individual behavioral goals, and a parent training program."
The parent training component involves weekly opportunities for parents to learn specialized skills that enhance parent-child relations and improve child behavior. These skills also help parents maintain gains made by the child during summer programming and extend these gains to other settings.
Maintaining Academic Skills Over the Summer
"All children lose ground academically during the summer; however this can be especially challenging for children with AD/HD or learning differences," says Dr. Sommer. In recognition of this, mornings at the NC Summer Program for Kids are targeted to helping children with their academics.
Based on feedback from each child's current classroom teacher(s) and information collected from parents during the registration process, the curriculum and daily activities of the program are developed by the teachers in consultation with the Director of Educational Programming, Laura Blackburn, MSA.
"The program is designed to include all academic classes in the morning to optimize each child's ability to focus and be an active participant in their own learning," explains Ms. Blackburn. "The morning language arts and math classes will utilize a systematic, multi-sensory, skills appropriate approach to learning. During the morning session each child will also experience the arts. Based on interest, this will include opportunities to explore a variety of media, such as painting, photography, computer art, drawing, and ceramics."
"This positive, interactive educational experience infused with technology and focused on skill development and higher order thinking skills provided in a format designed for this specific population will ultimately lead to success in the classroom environment," says Ms. Blackburn. The NC Summer Program for Kids is specifically designed to ensure a successful camp experience for the child and their parents, while at the same time increasing social awareness, teaching new skills, affecting behavior change, boosting academic learning, and developing increased feelings of competence and self-esteem in each child.
The Summer Treatment Program Model
The NC Summer Program for Kids is modified version of the highly successful Summer Treatment Program (STP) that was originally developed by Dr. William E. Pelham. The STP is based on the premise that combining an intensive summer treatment program with a follow up program during the school year is more likely to provide an effective intervention for ADHD than clinic-based treatment alone.
With consistent research support and a strong appeal to parents and children alike, the STP has been recognized as a model program by numerous groups including the American Psychological Association (APA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the national support and advocacy group, Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD).
There are currently more than 25 STPs in locations across the country and in other parts of the world. The NC Summer Program for Kids is the only program in North Carolina modeled after Dr. Pelham's STP. To learn more about the NC Summer Program for Kids visit their website www.ncsummerprogramforkids.org.
Jennifer Sommer, email interview/correspondence, April 17, 2013
Kristen King, email interview/correspondence, April 17, 2013
Laura Blackburn, email interview/correspondence, March 26, 2013