ADD/ADHD Kids Still Need Summer Structure, Treatment

Two weeks ago I discussed the complexities of driving for those with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD). Today, I would like to return to this condition and talk about the difficulties many ADD/ADHD children and their families face during the summer holidays.

Almost every child looks forward to the summer holidays as a wonderful period of time away from school when time seems to slow down and the beach beckons. However, this unstructured time can be difficult for children with ADD/ADHD and their families.

For these individuals, the routine and structure of the school environment is helpful for symptoms and often makes life more comfortable. Away from the routine, children with ADD/ADHD may feel bored or restless, which can lead to impulsive behaviours.

According to recent surveys, nearly half of parents with ADD/ADHD children said they planned to reduce or stop medication use over the summer holidays even though 80% said the child's time outside of school is helped with treatment.

Usually, stopping an effective treatment over the summer months is not advised. Unfortunately, for children with ADD/ADHD, school is not the only place they encounter problems because of their disorder.

Although less focus is needed during the summer break, behaviours associated with ADD/ADHD can be frustrating and stressful for the whole family.

Interrupting others, a tendency to be easily bored, short temper, difficulty getting started and finishing tasks, unpredictable moods, impatience and disorganization are a few of the symptoms that can cause problems whether the child is in school or at home.

If the ADD/ADHD behaviour creates no problems at home or with friends, discontinuing medication could be considered. However, in that case, the child may not have ADD/ADHD or may have only a mild case that does not require medication to manage.

Some kids may also want to have a summer job or to be driving - both of which will likely require ongoing medication in order for the child to be successful and safe. Children operating boats, ATVs, motorcycles or any other motorized vehicles are at high risk for injuries if they are not on medication.

Beyond medication use, parents face other issues with ADD/ADHD children out of school for the summer. Fun, structured activities are a good way to help make sure the whole family enjoys this time away from school.

It is important for parents to remember that boredom may make ADD/ADHD children feel restless and irritable. Having activities planned that are enjoyable and useful for building social and life skills is a good idea.

Another tip for a successful summer is to set summer goals. These might include things like: improving school skills; learning to play a new sport; mastering a new computer program; making new friends; or improving at a sport or activity the child already enjoys.

Once specific goals are in place, make a specific plan in order to achieve them. Combine structured and unstructured time and give enough variety to keep the child stimulated.

Many children do well in summer camps, which give them a chance to develop social skills away from the family. Choose a camp that will meet your child's need. If camp is not an option, there are many day programs that focus on specific areas of interest that are both helpful and fun.

Finally, expect that your child will want to have some time simply to 'hang out' during the summer. Rest and relaxation are not the enemies. Family vacations, outings such as picnics or movies or simply playing games at home are all good ways to spend time together. Encouraging get-togethers with friends is also good for any child.

Above all, have a safe and enjoyable summer as a family and keep routines as consistent as possible.


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