Many of us remember summer camp fondly – the games you play; the songs you sing; and the friends you make. But children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders don’t always have the chance to participate. Besides missing the fun, they also miss out on opportunities to learn new skills and experience success outside of school.

To address these concerns, Seattle Children’s Hospital has partnered with University of Washington’s Apex Summer Camp, which was created 6 years ago for children with autism. New this year, Seattle Children’s will offer the adjoining Camp Sea STAR for children with ADHD. These joint, evidence-based programs are designed to improve social skills and self-esteem of children with ADHD or autism and their peers or siblings with structured, day camp activities.

“Children with ADHD and autism can’t always go to camp because their behavioral challenges get in the way,” said Dr. Mark Stein, a Seattle Children’s ADHD expert who has been leading camps like this in Chicago for six years. “We use sports and creative exercises to teach them skills like paying attention and following directions.”

“The UW Autism Center created APEX summer camp to provide a fun, summer time experience for children with Autism to build their recreational and social skills,”said Dr. Annette Estes, Director, UW Autism Center. “We are delighted to extend the program to children with ADHD. Partnering with Dr. Stein is a great opportunity to bring together these two groups of children”

Camp Sea STAR is led by trained counselors who receive consultation and supervision from medical staff from Seattle Children’s. There is one counselor for every two children so participants get lots of personal attention.

Before children are enrolled in Camp Sea STAR, they are assessed at Seattle Children’s to determine appropriateness and set individual goals. During camp, parents are invited to weekly training sessions, led by Seattle Children’s psychologists, to learn how their child’s new skills can be practiced at home.

“We want them to experience success with something they struggled with before,” Stein said. “That can be unique for each child.”

Camp Sea STAR uses a token economy system, in which participants earn and lose points for behaviors and must earn privileges, such as recess periods and weekly field trips, by meeting individualized goals for daily report cards and by earning a greater number of points than they did in the week prior.

At his camp in Chicago, Stein said children’s peer interactions improved and participants gained confidence and were better able to regulate their emotions and behaviors after attending camp.

“Children get rapid feedback and behavioral changes occur in just two to three weeks,” Stein said. “It’s great for parents to see their children succeed in regular camp activities and sports that were not successful in the past.”

The Sea STAR program is open to children ages 6 to 12 with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and their peers or siblings. The program runs through the UW Autism Center APEX summer camp from July 7 to August 8, Monday through Friday, 9 3 p.m. Children with ADHD will be assessed in the PEARL clinic before they are enrolled. Children with Autism will be assessed at the UW Autism Center prior to enrollment.  For more information, please visit the camp website or contact or  at 206-221-CAMP (2267).

Media who are interested in interviewing Dr. Mark Stein about the Sea STAR program should contact Seattle Children’s PR team at 206-987-4500 or at

For general questions about APEX summer camp, or to talk with camp director, Ben Aaronson, about programming for children with Autism, please contact UW Public Info Specialist, Molly McElroy (206-543-2580.)