Challenging Horizons Program

In March of 2011, Dr. Martha Durham, PhD in psychology from Auburn University began an after-school program for a special population—those with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). The pilot program, which had 6 students, has been so successful that she is going to run summer camps in the Kroc Center in Downtown Greenville, and the after-school program already has expansion plans.

“I am a research geek,” says Dr. Durham. “I do not believe in operating from my gut. I do not believe in doing what feels right. We need to know our methods work.”

The methodology originated with Dr. William Pelham out of the University of Florida, who then taught Dr. Alex Mabe, a child psychologist at the Medical University of Georgia, and Dr. Bradley Smith at the University of South Carolina.  Dr. Durham met and trained with Dr. Mabe while doing her clinical residence there, and is currently working on getting her accreditation under Dr. Brad Smith who has operated programs in Columbia since 2000.  Dr. Durham is the first private program to move toward accreditation. 

It was through her private practice as a psychologist that Dr. Durham became aware of the need of such a program in the Upstate.  She had patients who were challenged by their ADD/ADHD children and who had no support in dealing with behavior issues. There was medication. There were special education classes, which are not the best solution for those with ADD/ADHD. Dr. Durham began working with these parents and their children, but told them that spending one hour a week was not enough to adequately deal with these issues. They needed something consistent, they needed structure. 

 “The Universe is kind of funny,” according to Dr. Durham. She adopted two sons at birth, and it turns out that her younger son has pretty significant ADHD. She realized then that she had a responsibility to bring such a program to the Upstate.  “I’m a typical mother: I wanted to help my son. But I can also help people in the Upstate to need help teaching their kids to manage their symptoms.” 

This fall, there are plans to accept 20 into the program. Referrals are coming from several sources:  Dr. James Beard, an ADHD pediatrician with the Greenville Hospital System; Clarity, which used to be called Speech, Hearing & Learning. Mike Burdine, who operates the Boys and Girls Clubs at the Kroc Center, has been so impressed with the program that he has asked Dr. Durham to train his staff. In exchange, she will hold her summer camps in the Kroc Facility.

The program is very structured, very positive, with a staff-to-student ratio of 3:1. The results are that kids do better academically, they do better behaviorally. They do not end up getting expelled or suspended. Their grades often improve enough that they are no longer in special education classes. Because kids during the summer lose about 30% of what they learn during the school year, the camps have an educational component; however, it takes the form of fun math and verbal games to keep it light and interesting. 

Then there are enrichments—yoga, music, dance and art—for 4 hours a week. In all of these, students must focus and concentrate, wait for the beat, hold poses, all of which help them with self-control. Sports in the form of volleyball, soccer, basketball, softball, teach them to be good team members, to work together, and these are skills that they take with them back to their school and home environments. 

But likely the most important element is praise, over-the-top praise to reinforce the desirable behaviors. So often, these kids are hearing no, hearing how negative their behavior is, and then living up to the label. The training requires staff to give three positive statements for every rule call violation a child may get. There are rules, and there are consequences, but the reprimands are given in an emotionless way, in a way the kids can hear and respond to, so that they do not shut down. 

“This program is real, this works,” says Dr. Durham. “It does not cost thousands of dollars, and we don’t make promises we can’t keep. Innovative collaborations like this one are why Greenville is on so many top ten lists.”

Enrollment for the after-school program is open now and will end on August 13. The application is on North Main Counseling’s website. The after-school program begins on September 4, 2012 and ends on May 24, 2013.

Jean Calvert is a jazz & blues singer, as well as a freelance writer living in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina. She has written lifestyle articles for the Greenville Journal, covered regional artists for the Greenville News, written for print magazines, created web content, and published articles in online magazines. Combining her music and writing skills, she has also crafted award-winning jingles and songs.  If she's not writing, Jean is singing!  Contact her at