This past summer we ventured out on a journey of HOPE.
Kaden has ADHD and lately, it's become a little more challenging because he just doesn't know how to channel his frustrations. Justin and I have always said that we would do whatever needed to give him the best chance at "normalcy" and to succeed in his daily life. We'd make whatever sacrifices for either kiddo, it just so happens that this is for Kaden. Well, I guess you could say it was for all of us, even Logan because honestly, it can add additional stress to us all.
Early in the year we learned of a program called the Summer Treatment Program that was ran by the doctors that he sees Children's Mercy ADHD Clinic. The program goes beyond medication. It offers an award-winning comprehensive treatment program for children's behavioral, emotional and learning problems. This program was a 7 week program that helps develop the child's problem-solving and social skills, and to help them gain the social awareness to enable him or her to get along better with other children. To help them following through in instructions and complete tasks. More importantly, this program helped teach Justin and I how to develop, reinforce, and maintain the positive changes we saw throughout the program.
7 weeks. 8:30-4 Monday through Friday.
Kaden wasn't super stoked about it. I wasn't super stoked about the extra commute but this was the sacrifice that I had to make. Kaden, he had to give up a summer of "fun" with Emily and Logan. The entire family had to give up a summer vacation. We all made sacrifices but this was important.
Each morning we would pull up to drop him off and he would be greeted by one of his counselors. They would check his backpack to ensure he had everything that he needed and then they would escort him into the building.
This program was designed around setting very high expectations but also have a high support system. He had 14 kids in his group and 6 counselors. They would be receiving immediate feedback, positive or negative. They could earn points each 15 minutes or lose points at any point of the day. They accumulate these points throughout the week and on Friday they would get to spend them in the point store on arcade like items.
They also had daily individual goals that they were striving to meet. A few of Kaden's goals were increasing the amount of times he is encouraging his peers, contributing to group discussions, having very limited negative verbalization which could include teasing in any form, and limiting the number of non-scheduled bathroom breaks. Now, it's worth noting that these goals are inclusive of so much more than we would typically think, they don't these kiddos walking a fine line of what is okay or not okay so they try and shut it all down. High expectations.
Kids could earn Fun Friday by meeting 75% of their goals on a daily basis, 3 out of 4 days that week. Fun Friday would consist of something FUN, just like the name implies. The first Fun Friday most everyone made it -- they needed to give the kids a taste of what they would receive so they all would work harder to reach their goals. It was a water day and water guns were recommended. Kaden showed up in his swimsuit, he was ready to go. BUT, he didn't know if he would make it or not because Justin and I weren't to let him know, he would find out Friday morning at camp if he made it or not. (Mathematically, Justin and I could figure out if he would make it but it wasn't our job to say.)
He loved Fun Friday and was so eager to let us know all about it. The next week though, he didn't make Fun Friday--he missed it by one goal on one day but hey, that's the rules. He was disappointed when I picked him up but he did get a chance to hit up the points store and he and his counselor, Hannah, were determined to work harder and make the next one.
And he did it. He made the THIRD Fun Friday and each and every Fun Friday after that. Justin and I also implemented (per their suggestions) a larger reward if Kaden were to make it Fun Friday. We sat down with Kaden and asked what he would want as a family activity -- Main Event, Top Golf or movie. That third week we ventured out to Main Event, which he chose for his brother.
It's also worth noting that one of the hardest parts of this program is being consistent. Consistent in our approach and delivery of requests made to Kaden. Consistency in our follow-through on both rewards and consequences. Consistency on our praise and letting him know when what he is doing isn't a compliant behavior. It takes a lot BUT throughout the program we learned that this is the biggest KEY to success -- it has to become party of our normal routine.
Throughout the program we ventured to Top Golf, back to Main Event and a Kidz Bop concert.
He had a safari day, board game day, Sporting KC soccer day -- which was his favorite. Tim Mellia, Sporting's goalie, came to the camp and spent the afternoon with the kids. They not only got to get their picture taken with Tim but they also got their shot at scoring a goal against him. Kaden was super stoked to tell Justin and I that he did just that, he scored on the Sporting goalie. He also gave us a tip -- always shoot for the corners, it's harder to reach there.
The last week of camp was kind of like spirit week at school. Pajama day on Monday, Team Tuesday, Wacky Wednesday and then Surfer Thursday to go along with their Thursday Fun Day because Friday was graduation. It was hard to believe that after 6+ weeks we had finally made it to graduation and as happy as I was for the commute to end, I was equally as sad to see my one on one time with Kaden come to an end. We spent our mornings talking about the day that lied ahead, telling jokes, talking about weekend activities, and singing as loud as we could.
Graduation day was finally here which meant that it was also family day. We would finally get to have a glimpse into his daily routine at camp. When we first arrived we observed their daily welcome chat -- it was fast paced and the kids were not only paying attention and recalling information that was asked of them but the counselors were providing that instant praise and feedback. Kaden earned the BEST SPORT award for the entirety of the camp. And if there was ever an award for him to earn, this would be the one I would hope for--encouraging his peers, being supportive, a gracious winner and a good loser are all hard for Kaden. They just don't come easily & this is very common in kids with ADHD but he worked hard all summer on improving this skill and in the end, won the award that encapsulates each of these skills. So proud.
The day continued with a round of soccer (they typically played 3 hours worth of sports--sports is a great way to not only teach new skills but to hone the aforementioned skills with being a good sport but also following directions & interacting with peers) and a basketball skills segment. The kids then went to rehearse their play while we visited and chatted with the team who oversaw the classroom learning aspect of the program. We were then reunited for the play the created for us, Kaden was a dramatic scientist who faints, he nailed it.
Finally, it was graduation ceremony time and Kaden was given the Blue Marlin award...
Me, well, I had tears streaming down my face. This kid took on and conquered a huge challenge this summer. He didn't know a single kiddo at the camp. He knew he was missing out on lots of summer activities but he kept with it. He arrived every morning at camp with a smile on his face and met me each day after with the same smile. He worked hard each and every day to meet his personal goals, to develop the skills that he would need in the upcoming school year and for life in general.
And it was all thanks to this group of people, his counselors. He was surrounded by people that genuinely cared about his growth, about him. They understood the struggles of ADHD and not only knew there was so much kindness in him but found ways to allow it to shine. They focused on his positive characteristics and did their best to build those up higher and to point them out as often as they could. They spoke to him about those moments when he could have done something differently and helped him problem solve through it and then to move on from it. They were his support team. They came from all over the country to help Kaden and kids like him and for 7 weeks, they gave him everything that they had & in return, Kaden gave everything he had.
Justin and I couldn't be more proud of this kid. He accomplished so much.