Camp STAR

For children currently enrolled in kindergarten through grade 6; Entering grades 1-7 in the fall. Check back in early 2020 for information on Summer 2020 programming.

Camp STAR gives children with ADHD a fun summer day camp experience while integrating treatment and skill-building into everyday activities. There’s no traditional “therapy time” at Camp STAR. Instead, daily activities like swimming, arts, sports, and more are structured to help campers practice positive behaviors, improve social skills, and develop emotion regulation and problem-solving strategies.

Camp is held in Highland Park. Bus pick-up and drop-off is available for a fee, with one stop in Ravenswood and one stop in Skokie.

“This camp is a sanctuary for children who have had difficulty in school, traditional camps, difficulty making friends or maintaining friendships.”

-Susanne Beal, Camp STAR parent

Our Program

Camp STAR is operated by Jewish Council for Youth Services and affiliated with the University of Illinois at Chicago. We deliver treatment tailored to children’s individual behavioral and learning needs.

Camp STAR staff adhere to the evidence-based Summer Treatment Program (STP) model developed by William E. Pelham, Jr., PhD, a leading psychologist in the field of ADHD research. The STP model was first developed in the 1980s: since then, it has been extensively evaluated in clinical trials. In 1996, it was named as a Model Program for Child and Family Mental Health by the Division of Child, Youth, and Family Services of the American Psychological Association, and in 2003, it was awarded Innovative Program of the Year by CHADD, a national parent advocacy group for children with ADHD. It has also been identified as an evidence-based program by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The STP model is currently the pattern for evidence-based summer programs in nearly a dozen states.

Camp STAR is the only program in Illinois that uses this model to support children with ADHD and their parents.

students reading a book in the classroom

Each day at Camp STAR, our campers will:

Learn New Skills

At Camp STAR, campers learn and apply social skills, problem-solving techniques, and emotional regulation strategies throughout daily activities. Each day begins and ends with a 15-minute group discussion led by a counselor, with multiple daily mini-discussions (five to seven minutes) held before and after each activity period. Discussions also provide an opportunity to practice executive functioning skills:

  • The pre-activity discussion focuses on preparation – children are encouraged to think about and plan for different ways skills might be needed or used in the upcoming activity.
  • The post-activity discussion is a review, allowing children to reflect on skill use, identify progress, and problem-solve issues.

During each activity period, Camp STAR staff give feedback, encourage self-monitoring, and coach skill use.

Be Creative

Kids get inspired in the Camp STAR Art Studio while working on a mix of individual and group projects. Individual art projects allow campers to express their creativity while working on behaviors like staying on task and following through with teacher instructions. Group projects help campers practice working cooperatively with peers. Kids then show off their work during the art show held on parent visitation day.

Have Fun

Every child is part of the team at Camp STAR, regardless of skill level or prior experience! Our daily recreational activities focus on fun and provide a great opportunity for campers to work on paying attention and following directions.

Each day, campers participate in skills practice and then a game period in the sport of the day. Skills practice builds the confidence campers need to be fully engaged during game time, while game-play provides a natural setting to put social skills into practice and work on good sportsmanship.

Campers receive daily swim lessons at the Lillian L. Lutz Recreation Center (“The Lil’”) using the Red Cross curriculum and then enjoy free swim time.

Experience Success

Parents are sometimes surprised when kids actually come home excited about our Academic Learning Center (ALC)! This daily classroom period reinforces behaviors necessary for academic success — following through with instructions, completing tasks (independently, accurately, and in a timely manner), and cooperating with peers. At the start of each ALC period, campers complete brief individual seatwork assignments in math, reading, and language arts. Every assignment is tailored to each child’s academic level, and our ALC staff help campers set individual goals and stay on-task. For the second half of class, campers participate in an evidence-based peer tutoring program for reading that reinforces social skills while building academic confidence.

Camp STAR teachers and educational counselors work hard to create a positive, supportive classroom where campers can meet their goals and feel successful. Our focus is to help children build academic self-efficacy that carries over into the new school year.

And then have more Fun

Recess: Campers earn twice daily recess (lunchtime and end-of-day) by meeting their individualized program goals. During recess, campers have supervised free play with other children in the program.

Fun Fridays: Each program week ends with special Friday activities. At lunch, all campers gather for a hot dog cookout. After the cookout, campers who have been making progress and meeting their goals during the week earn special activities. Sometimes, the special activities include an off-site field trip to places like Funtopia or Legoland. Other weeks, we have special on-site events – past events have included an interactive reptile show and a Superhero Academy.

Campers having fun playing outside

Partnering with Parents

At Camp STAR, we believe that building a partnership between parents and the program is key to success for the summer and beyond.

Families enrolled in the program commit to attending the weekly parent group. During parent group, we discuss techniques to strengthen the parent-child relationship, improve home compliance and behavior, and work with schools effectively to set children up for academic success. Our goal is to help parents learn strategies and maintain gains made during Camp STAR, so that they can support their children and continue to make progress into the new school year.

Parent group meetings are held at Camp STAR’s location in Highland Park one evening per week and last for one and a half hours; free childcare is available to make attendance easier for families. A city-based group is offered in Ravenswood for families that live in Chicago, though childcare is unavailable at this location during the group.

Additionally, the lead counselor provides brief, individual feedback on each child’s behavior to parents daily at on-site dismissal. Parents who can’t be on-site for dismissal can schedule a phone call to discuss their child’s progress.

A Typical Daily Schedule

8:45 a.m. Arrivals
9:00 a.m. Morning Meeting
9:30 a.m. Recreational Period (sports skills practice)
10:30 a.m. Academic Learning Center
11:45 a.m. Art Studio
12:30 p.m. Lunch
12:45 p.m. Recess
1:15 p.m. Swimming at The Lil’
3:00 p.m. Recreational Period (sports game)
4:00 p.m. End of Day Meeting
4:15 p.m.  Recess
4:30 p.m. Departures

Campers taking the bus to camp

Interested in Camp STAR?

Click here to complete our Interest Form. Please note, this form is not a registration. Camp STAR is a therapeutic program and therefore has an intake process to determine if the program will be a good fit for your child.