Tuesday, May 22, 2018

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OHIO’s Center for Intervention Research in Schools hosting camp for area youth

Student success is at the heart of Ohio University’s mission, but one center on the Athens Campus is committed to ensuring that students are on a path to academic success long before they ever step foot on a college campus.

Within the Department of Psychology in OHIO’s College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for Intervention Research in Schools (CIRS) holds as its mission research, training and service – all as a means to improve the lives of children and adolescents.

CIRS was founded in 2009 by Professor of Psychology Steven Evans and Associate Professor of Psychology Julie Owens who serve as the center’s co-directors. In 2012, the OHIO Board of Trustees passed a resolution officially making CIRS a University-sponsored center.

The center includes faculty, staff and students interested in improving the ability to help children and adolescents who are experiencing emotional and behavioral problems through school-based interventions and support systems. Its current research focuses on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other behavioral problems.

CIRS serves and collaborates with a growing number of constituencies, including:

  • OHIO undergraduate students interested in psychology and graduate students pursuing doctoral degrees in clinical child psychology
  • Educators throughout Ohio and beyond who incorporate evidence-based techniques explored by the center into their curriculum
  • Faculty in departments of psychology, education and medicine at universities across the country
  • Children, adolescents and their families who benefit from the center’s research and programs

“We have a pretty big network of collaborators,” explained Owens, “but the common goal is to improve the outcomes of children and adolescents.”

The center has seen significant success since its founding, attracting federal funding to support its research, expanding its partnerships to most recently include OHIO’s Patton College of Education, and increasing the number of community outreach programs.

One of those community outreach programs is about to launch its second year.

Camp Boost kicks off on July 21 and runs through Aug. 1. This two-week free summer camp is designed to help area first- through seventh-grade students get a jump-start on the school year while providing a fun, social and recreational environment.

According to Owens, Camp Boost is modeled after the Summer Treatment Program, a comprehensive intervention for children with ADHD and related disruptive behaviors. The Summer Treatment Program, which was developed by Dr. William E. Pelham Jr. and colleagues, is offered at various university and medical settings throughout the United States.

Camp Boost is Ohio University’s version of the Summer Treatment Program.

“Camp Boost is actually a rendition of a camp that was started last year by a graduate student,” explained Fran Wymbs, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at OHIO who co-directs Camp Boost with Brian Wymbs, an assistant professor of psychology.

According to Fran Wymbs, last year’s program was offered for one week and was housed at Athens Middle School. This year’s camp has been expanded to two weeks and will be held on OHIO’s Athens Campus, offering its participants access to the campus’ resources and recreational facilities.

The camp is open to all children ages 6-13 with the goal of having about 50 percent of its participants be children with ADHD. A total of 40 children will be accepted into the program, and camp organizers have already received at least 140 inquiries from families interested in enrolling their children.

“We’re hoping that this will be a positive experience for multiple families whose children would benefit from some sort of academic or recreational boost,” said Fran Wymbs. “In addition, there’s a specific benefit to children with ADHD to learn from their typically developing peers because they’re modeling appropriate behavior and they can have positive interactions on a frequent basis.”

Children enrolled in Camp Boost will be divided into four age groups and will work with six OHIO graduate students who have experience working with teachers and families familiar with ADHD and other behavioral problems, as well as with typically developing children. The graduate students will serve as the camp’s teachers and lead counselors, gaining valuable training experience, while 10 additional graduate and undergraduate students will serve as counselors and teachers’ aides – all under the guidance of Fran and Brian Wymbs who will serve as the clinical supervisors.

The graduate students leading the camp’s efforts come from several academic units at the University, including psychology, social work, education and sports management.

“We’ve had a lot of support from different University groups,” explained Fran Wymbs, who also noted that the Foodbank in Logan is providing all the food for the camp. “The Pre-physical Therapy Club at the University ran a fundraiser on Camp Boost’s behalf. In addition, staff at Grover Center and the Aquatics Center have been kind enough to work with us to reserve space early in the planning stages.”

And while the main goal of Camp Boost is to give children a jump-start on the upcoming academic year, the camp also aims to help children learn and refine social and behavioral skills.

The children will spend about five hours each day engaging in recreational activities, including basketball, soccer, softball and swimming, as well as less structured time like recess. The goal of those activities, according to Fran Wymbs, is to allow the students to practice the sports, social, organization and coping skills they’ve learned and to work toward their individual goals.

“Some children might be working on impulse control,” she explained. “They might be trying to manage interrupting, and so having both structured and unstructured activities with the opportunity for feedback for both allows us to see whether or not through different activities they’re able to meet their goals and then to make plans for ongoing goals.”

Two hours of each day will be dedicated to academic work with the camp’s graduate students developing the curriculum.

“Having this classroom allows us to ask innovative research questions, the results of which can be shared with the schools that we work with throughout the year,” explained Owens.

In fact, Evans mentioned a research paper that an OHIO graduate student produced as a result of last year’s Camp Boost and that is about to be published. The paper explored the effects of reading tests aloud to children with ADHD versus having the children read the test to themselves. Evans noted that while that is a common accommodation provided at schools, there has not been much rigorous research to support that strategy.

And Camp Boost doesn’t just serve its young participants. It will also offer at least two parent workshops on topics such as how to get your child to follow instructions more often.

“I would like for Camp Boost to be an enjoyable camp that children want to attend, that parents find helpful … and that helps children feel more comfortable in social situations,” said Fran Wymbs.

“For many kids with ADHD, social activities aren’t enjoyable experiences, and they either come to hate them and refuse to go oftentimes as a result of being teased or bullied by others, or they get kicked out because of their disruptive behavior,” Evans said. “So if the only thing that happens is the kids come and have an enjoyable time and they want to come back because they had a successful experience – that’s a pretty big success from our perspective.”

In addition, Fran Wymbs said she hopes that the OHIO students involved in the camp gain valuable training experiences in offering evidence-based treatment to a population of children who would benefit from these behavioral and academic strategies.

Ultimately, she said, CIRS hopes to develop Camp Boost into a summer-long program.

“This is a stepping stone in that direction,” she said.