Depending on how the past school year went, you might be relieved to see it come to an end, or hopeful that the next year will be as successful. Either way, as the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Disorder, your worries and work aren't over.
Now that summer is here it means less structured activities and more effort from you to keep your AD/HD child busy and safe. Here are some tips for what to do over the short summer months and how to begin planning for the upcoming school year.
Review the Year
Before you begin packing up those pencils and erasers, take the time to talk with a couple of your child's main teachers. Find out, and write down, the specific reasons for success or, conversely, what was difficult this past year. Include details about what worked well for your child and how those teachers made it a more pleasant year. This way you have written information that you can present to your child's new teacher or IEP team in the fall.
Make requests: If you don't already know which teacher will be the best match for your child in the upcoming school year, then find out from your child's former teacher, his or her guidance counselor or other parents with ADD children in the next grade level. Once you have this name then make a request in writing to the school principal. Be specific in your letter. State your child's strengths and weaknesses and why you believe this would be a successful match. Let's face it - the right teacher can make or break the school year.
Doctors, Medications and Testing
Over the past year, you may have realized the need for some educational testing for a learning disability occurring with your child's ADD. About 20% to 50% of children with ADD do have additional learning disabilities to contend with. This missing piece of information could help you begin the new school year with a clear understanding of your child's strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles.
Summer is also a beneficial time to try AD/HD prescription changes if you are having problems with your child's current medications. Take this time to talk with your doctor about your child's medication and any changes or new treatments that might help.
Transitions, especially those that involve focus and learning, can be extraordinarily difficult for children with ADD. Research shows that children with learning disabilities can benefit from some type of continuous learning over the summer so they won't fall behind while reviewing topics as the new school year begins. Some studies show a 4% regression over the summer months. This can increase exponentially over time.
Use this time for intervention. Working with a tutor two or three times a week for an hour at a time (remember short bursts of concentration work best) can give support and increase your child's self-esteem in an academic area of weakness.
There are many different types of successful camps for children with ADD. To find the right one for your child, check resources listed with this article, advertised in ADDitude or on Internet sites such as LD Online or CHADD.
When you find a camp that looks good, ask to speak to a few families who attended before you decide if it is right for your family. Although these camps can be pricey, often costing a few thousand dollars, the benefits are great in terms of long-term success. Plus you might be able to offset your cost through your medical insurance or financial support from the camp itself.
One of my favorite jobs is working as a teacher at an eight-week Summer Treatment Program through the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Cleveland, Ohio. This specialized camp for ADD children combines sports, art and academics with a behavior modification plan that boasts a 95-98% parent satisfaction rating for meeting treatment goals, and includes a weekly parent education class so parents can achieve the same goals with consistency in their behavior management approach at home.
Fun and Games
Sports are a wonderful way to expend excess energy. Individual sports such as karate, ice-skating, or golf provide an opportunity for your child to practice their concentration, focus, and commitment to an area that could become their special talent, thereby increasing their self-esteem. Group sports such as softball, soccer, or basketball provide the much-needed practice in working with peers, reading social cues, and feeling part of a larger group.
An Ounce of Prevention
If you know that your child is transitioning from one major grade to another or into a new school altogether, then you will want to have them visit this new space over the summer. Help them "walk" through their schedule, practice their locker combination and decide on a safe place where they can have the combination written down.
This might be a good time to introduce your child to their new teachers and to set up a time for you to meet with them before the new school year begins. Find a teacher who can be the advocate for you and your child, and also someone who can provide support to your child for more than one year. This person can be a guidance counselor, aide, classroom teacher, or specialist.
Ask if they can help your child gather important books or assignments and clarify any homework assignments before they leave the school building. Establish a way for you to communicate with this person on a regular basis, whether it is through weekly phone calls, e-mail, or notes in assignment books. Share with them your notes from the previous year so that everyone can hit the ground running.
Provide strategies at home after you have assessed the situation at school, then determine what you will need to do at home to support your child. Even the simple act of going through your child's book bag and assignments each afternoon will help your child learn how to prioritize their workload. Then help your child get into the routine of packing up their book bag the night before.
Now that you have a plan in place you can relax and enjoy the next few months of summer. Always keep in mind that tomorrow is a new day, and that, in the fall, your child will have a new beginning in a brand new classroom with brand new pencils and brand new erasers. Until then... try to relax and do some dancing in the streets... or at least in your living room. After all, you and your child succeeded in getting through another year of school!
[i] Javorsky, J. (1996). An examination of youth with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and language learning disabilities: A clinical study. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(3), 247-259.
[ii] Riccio, C.A., & Jemison, S.J. (1998). AD/HD and emergent literacy: Influences of language factors. Reading and Writing Quarterly, 14 (1), 43-59
Tilley, B.K., Cox, L.S., & Staybrook, N. (1986). An extended school year validation study. (Report No. 86-2). Seattle: Seattle Public Schools.