Children with ADHD thrive on structure, and few things provide more structure than school. So what’s a parent to do after the academic year ends? How can you make your child’s summer fun and productive?
If you plan wisely, there’s no need to worry. Here are the most important things to consider.
Time for a “medication vacation”?
Many parents I work with tell me that they want their child to discontinue ADHD medication over the summer. When I ask why, they typically offer the following rationale: Medication helps control my child’s behavior at school, and since school’s out, there’s no need for meds.
That sounds good. But the truth is that school is not the only arena where medication is helpful to ADHD kids — far from it.
A couple of summers ago, one of my clients, 10-year-old Josh, took a trip with his parents and sister to visit his grandparents’ farm. Josh, who was severely hyperactive and impulsive, had been doing well on medication. But once school let out, Josh’s parents decided to take him off meds (without consulting me). So, during the 10-hour drive, Josh’s old behavior problems quickly resurfaced. “Mom, he’s touching me,” complained his sister. “Dad, he took my book.”
Josh couldn’t stop wiggling, and he insisted on frequent stops to get a snack or simply to get out of the car to play. After the umpteenth stop, Josh’s dad told me later, he was tempted to have everyone else jump in the car and leave Josh behind.
Problems continued at the farm. Yes, he had a blast watching the animals and jumping into haystacks with his cousins. But mealtimes were a trial. No matter how often Josh’s grandparents reminded him to sit quietly, he fidgeted and interrupted whoever was talking.
The kicker came one afternoon, when Josh’s cousin ran breathlessly into the house. “Hurry!” she shouted. “Josh started the tractor, and he’s trying to get it to move.”
Poor Josh wanted to behave. But without his medication, he couldn’t. A vacation that should have been fun for everyone turned into a disappointment.
The moral of this story? If your child’s off-medication behavior makes it hard for him to be around others and participate in certain activities, it’s better that he stay on medication throughout the year.
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