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KU camp aims to bring kids with ADHD the attention they need

January 22, 2020

Kids running through grass in the park

By Brian Whepley

Spurred by the initiative and expertise of faculty and staff from KU School of Medicine-Wichita, a new summer camp aims to help youngsters with ADHD modify their behavior and thrive using a program unavailable for hundreds of miles around.

Jointly sponsored by the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences and the Department of Pediatrics, the June 1 through July 17 camp seeks to serve up to 28 children ages 6 to 10 with its 13 full-time staff. The camp is built on the belief - and developing research - that teaching kids how to adjust their behavior and cope is a powerful tool alongside medications that help but can't entirely do it alone.

"Children will learn skills like waiting their turn to speak, listening and following along, and making appropriate contributions to discussions," said psychologist Nicole Klaus, Ph.D., an associate professor at the medical school and one of three camp directors. "They will be coached in such social skills as being a good sport, being able to ignore minor annoyances, taking turns, giving compliments and dealing with losing. These are things that a lot of kids with ADHD have difficulty with."

The camp - STP, short for Summer Treatment Program - will be at Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas, with sessions running from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. That's a lengthy day, but it's not all classwork.

Each day will consist of a brief morning session where counselors go over the behavioral goals and plan for the day. Students will have about two hours of classroom time, where they'll work on academic materials while learning appropriate classroom behaviors. There will be art sessions and, of course, lunch and recess. Several sports drills and games will take place each day, giving children additional opportunities to practice social skills and behavioral goals.

Throughout, "an important component is a points system, where they earn points for following the rules and paying attention. At end of week they get to spend those points," Klaus said.

Research has shown that the best outcomes result from ADHD being treated early in the child's development, and that "the combination of medication and behavior therapy can lead to success both academically and socially," said Shannon Loeck, M.D., a fourth-year psychiatry resident who operates the ADHD Lifetime Clinic for children and adults at KU School of Medicine-Wichita. She'll join the Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences faculty this summer.

"Each child diagnosed with ADHD is different and needs an individualized approach. This is very difficult to achieve in a public school setting," Loeck said. "Medications can help a lot, but without appropriate guidance and structure geared toward the child's specific needs, significant improvements in symptoms are tough to achieve. This camp will be providing the specific care to help bridge that gap and help children reach their potential."

Klaus, who works with children and adolescents, learned of STP a number of years ago. STP has been recognized as a model program for children with ADHD and has been used in more than a dozen sites across the country. The closest is at Children's Mercy in Kansas City.

"The program brings high-quality, evidence-based interventions to the community and provides an opportunity for upcoming professionals to learn those services," said Klaus, who observed the Kansas City camp in action last summer.

Klaus' fellow directors are Ashley Louie, Ph.D., who will be the primary on-site point person, and Kirsten Engel, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor at the medical school. All of them, Klaus said, will lace up their tennis shoes this summer and join in with the kids, who will be divided into two age groups. Via assessments and observation, each child's treatment plan will be individualized. Weekly parents' meetings will help them learn about the behavioral treatment and how they can supplement and reinforce it at home.

The camp will have plenty of staff, with each counselor working with two or three students. The paid counselors will be graduate students in psychology, working with a special education teacher, art teacher, classroom aide and others.

The program is accepting donations and will seek grants, as it hopes to be able to provide scholarships in the future to make the camp more accessible to families. The cost of the seven-week camp is $4,000, encompassing about 280 hours in behavioral therapy overall.

Sunrise Christian Academy was selected as a site because it provided classrooms, gyms and sports fields. KU School of Medicine-Wichita Medical Practice Association - the business end of medical practice at the campus - will handle the site lease and employ camp staff.

"Our faculty had an idea, and we worked to make it happen," said Aaron Ryan, executive director of KU School of Medicine-Wichita Medical Practice Association. "This highlights how the MPA and the school work together to make the community better."

Loeck said the camp's target age is ideal. "If they learn the necessary skills early on, there have been studies that show the brain learns and reprograms itself so they may not need medication for the rest of their life," said Loeck, adding that the research in that area is still developing.

And summer is an ideal time, as youngsters aren't already busy with school and after-school activities.

"This program is unique for this area," Loeck said, "where appropriate resources for these kids are few and far between."

Learn more:

To find out more about the KU Summer Treatment Program, visit wichita.kumc.edu/ADHDSTP or call 316-293-2691. Parents and professionals can also begin the application and screening process via that website.

How to help:

The program is seeking donations and other funding to defray the costs to families. Donations of items for children to buy in the "points store" or meals for parent education nights are also welcome. Anyone interested in supporting the program can contact the number above.

KU School of Medicine-Wichita
Last modified: Jan 22, 2020
Media Inquiries:

Belinda Venters
316-293-3536
bventers@kumc.edu

KU School of Medicine–Wichita
Public Affairs
1010 N. Kansas
Wichita, KS, 67214

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