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A Positive Spin for AD/HD

Ashburn's first summer camp devoted to children with AD/HD focuses on each child's strengths.

Erin Hastings was a normal, happy little girl. She had lots of friends and did well in school.

Then she got to third grade.

"She started having difficulty in school," said Craig Hastings, Erin's dad. "Before we knew it, everything was just negative."

Erin saw a slew of therapists and psychologists who poked and prodded until she finally had a diagnosis: Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or AD/HD.

By then, Erin only heard about what was wrong with her. She continued to struggle. She had a hard time focusing in class and remembering details.

Then, a friend told the Hastings about Anita and Kirk Martin, an Ashburn couple that counseled children with AD/HD in their home.

In the nine months since, Erin's attitude and skills have improved dramatically.

"It changed her outlook from one that was, 'I'm going to have a crappy life' to 'I can really see I've got a really bright future ahead," Craig Hastings said.

With results like Erin's, the Martins' coaching skills are so in demand that they are hosting their first AD/HD camp this summer at the Woods Recreation Center in Ashburn Village. Since Erin is already under their wing, she gets to help out at the three-day camps, called Trailblazers Camp.

"I am excited about going to Trailblazers Camp this summer because I am going to be a special helper," said Erin, who is a fifth-grader at Hillside Elementary. "I love writing and painting and creating animals out of clay, so the Martins are going to let me teach our camp class."

ERIN HASTINGS IS a classic example of how the Martins succeed with children with AD/HD. Instead of focusing on what the children can't do right in school, they find in each one what they're best at and help foster that skill.

"At school, they end up focusing on what they're not good at," Anita Martin said. "We think we can be more positive."

Children with AD/HD tend to be colorful, talented characters who often display unusual amounts of compassion for their fellows. The Martins sit down with each one and discover how to best display his or her natural talent. In Erin's case, she loved sculpture as well as helping people with disabilities. Before long, her whole family was involved in Special Olympics.

Erin's confidence, which had been chipped away by traditional treatment for AD/HD, quickly blossomed again.

"It was pretty neat to see all the sudden her confidence is coming back because she can do all these things," her father said.

Because Erin loves making things with her hands, she gets to teach other children in the Martins' coaching classes — and this summer at camp — how to sculpt clay. With all their students, the Martins find something unique that each child can express.

"It feeds their confidence," Anita Martin said.

THE CAMP grew out of casual meetings with the friends of the Martins' son, a sixth-grader at Farmwell Station. Anita Martin, the planner, and Kirk Martin, the intuitive, quickly discovered in each child what teachers could sometimes overlook — the innate skills that often aren't as valued in schools as test results.

While neither of the Martins is a trained counselor, they have a history of working with children as volunteers. And they've already gained success as Ashburn's local AD/HD gurus. All eight three-day Trailblazers Camps have sold out for this summer already at $500 a session in its inaugural year — and that's just through word-of-mouth advertising.

"If we need to expand, we will," Anita Martin said.

And the camp, she hopes, is just the beginning. Eventually, she'd like to expand the camp to all children and make it life-skills focused. There, children with entrepreneurial or artistic bents could explore those passions further. As Anita Martin points out, those skills can be the ones that serve teenagers later in life in college and careers.

Parents like the Hastings have seen the benefits too.

"They want so badly to see their kids in a positive light," she said.

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To learn more about Trailblazers Camp, visit CelebrateADHD.com.