Summer camp works with ADHD children at Dan Nicholas Park
By Kathy Chaffin
Eleven-year-old Tyler Cain seemed to be enjoying painting orange diamonds on a wooden jointed snake Monday at the first day of a weeklong annual summer camp for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) at Dan Nicholas Park .
“What would you name your snake?” asked camp worker Trina Griffin, who was coordinating the art activity with Melisha Stewart, whose son, C.J., was participating in another activity.
“Probably a new type of snake,” Tyler responded. “An orange python,” he added, then changed his mind. “An orange diamondback copperhead.”
Sitting next to him, 10-year-old Kaitlin Miller, who was painting her snake’s head purple, said, “I would just name it Mel.”
Ten-year-old Owen Hartman, who was painting his snake green, responded, “Mr. Python.”
Griffin continued to ask questions in an attempt to prompt their creativity.
The children didn’t appear to need much help. Tyler’s snake seemed to come to life as he talked about it.
The orange diamondback copperhead would live in North Carolina, he said, and eat a combination of mice, rats, bugs ó the freshly-hatched ones ó frogs and any other animal small enough for it to swallow.
Kaitlin, after painting several joints of the snake purple, began alternating painting them red. Her snake would live anywhere, she said, and would be friendly enough to be kept in a pen.
Owen’s snake, which would live in Africa, seemed to grow more vicious as he talked. It would eat rats, he said at first, then decided it would eat all kinds of meat. And, he said, it would grow to be the size of the huge shelter they were painting under near the main entrance to the park.
This is the first year Tyler, Kaitlin and Owen have attended the annual ADHD camp, and two hours into the first day, they were already loving it.
Tyler said he was excited about all the fun things campers are going to get to do this week, especially the activities planned in keeping with this year’s “Safari” theme. “I’m a person that loves nature,” he said.
Kaitlin said her favorite part of the camp is getting to make new friends.
Owen said he’s also excited about the fun activities and the fact that the camp lasts for a whole week and not just for one day.
At the lower end of the shelter, Georgette Edgerton, who teaches biology at North Stanly High School, was coordinating a science activity with Brandon Wallace, C.J. Stewart and Cody Wallace. Wearing goggles and plastic lab aprons, the three were counting how many drops of water, oil and alcohol they could put on a single penny.
Seven-year-old Cody, who in addition to his 9-year-old brother, C.J., has a twin named Trevor who was participating in another activity, said he was able to put 17 water drops on a penny before it spilled over onto the paper towel.
Eight-year-old Brandon said he put 19 drops on his penny, while C.J. said he put 15.
Edgerton said she has actually had a student put 147 drops on one penny before. The reason it’s possible, she explained to the campers, is due to a science term called hydrophobic. “Water loves water,” she said. “Water attaches to itself.”
Other activities at the camp for ADHD children ages 7-12 included team-building, drama, sports and other special activities.
A total of 24 children are enrolled in this year’s camp, with all but two receiving scholarships to attend.
Dr. Wayne Koontz, who treats children with ADHD in his practice at Salisbury Pediatric Associates, started the camp about seven years ago. Even during the current economic conditions, he said, the Robertson Foundation was willing to continue donating $5,000 of the estimated $6,000 cost.
Koontz said the camp helps children with such ADHD symptoms as inattentiveness, impulsive behaviors and hyperactivity and focuses on positive reinforcement to build their self-esteem. While some of the children at the camp come from very good homes, he said, some are also enrolled in his programs for troubled boys and troubled girls.
Of those, Koontz said 95 percent live in fatherless homes, and of those, 50 percent are being raised by mothers with drug problems.
The camp has basic rules the children have to follow, with the ultimate punishment of being sent home. The 71-year-old pediatrician said he’s never had to send a child home, although there have been some time outs through the years.
Koontz walked around the camp activities Monday and watched the children engaged in and focused on what they were doing. In a classroom setting, he said, many of those same children get into trouble for not paying attention or being disruptive.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is oftentimes inherited, he said. When he asked the father of one patient, for example, if anyone else in the family had symptoms, Koontz said the man admitted that he failed the eighth grade.
The disorder can often be treated with methods to help children focus, he said, and if that doesn’t work, there are medications that will.
Koontz said he and his father both had it. The younger Koontz was able to learn focusing methods and went from making Cs and Ds from the first through eighth grades to making straight As.
When his father died at age 88, however, his son said he still carried the stigma of not being able to excel in school even though he was a very smart man.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-7683.