Learning Challenges

Academic Skills – Use ’em or Lose ’em

Engage your ADHD child in summer learning to keep his academic skills sharp and help him succeed in school.

Mother and daughter building academic skills by reading book under tree in the summer
Mother and daughter building academic skills by reading book under tree in the summer

After a long, perhaps challenging, school year, it’s important for kids to have a break. But it’s also crucial for them to keep learning. Without the continuous use of academic skills, children with learning disabilities – more than half of all kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – can quickly lose ground. As you plan your summer, reserve some time in each day to engage your child in learning.

Children generally need frequent repetition to retain hard-won skills, and as little as an hour a day can help. Set aside time in the morning, when your child is fresh, to focus on problem areas and to cement skills she has already acquired.

If possible, hire a tutor – even a high school or college student.
To “sell” this plan to your child, build in rewards, such as a trip to the pool after tutoring. Or have your child earn points that can be traded in for weekly rewards, like a sleepover with friends, or saved up for a major prize, like a trip to an amusement park.

Formal programs

There are excellent review programs for helping children maintain their skills. The Wilson Reading System, a multi-sensory approach to reading and spelling, is good for students with dyslexia or another language-based learning disability. For a list of certified instructors, visit wilsonlanguage.com.

To bolster math skills and concepts, try the Summer Math Skills Sharpener workbook series (summerskills.com). Each lesson in these workbooks calls on skills addressed in earlier lessons – an effective approach for children with learning disabilities. Purchase the book for the grade your child has just completed and have him work through one page per day.

For additional resources, ask your school’s reading specialist or visit stores that cater to teachers. Select materials that review what your child has already learned, and add a few to give her a jump on next year. Whatever you choose, dole it out slowly: A little at a time over the course of the entire summer works best.

Beyond tutoring

Long summer days offer lots of opportunities to practice school skills – without even realizing it.

  • Join a neighborhood reading program. Many bookstores and libraries run programs to encourage summer reading, offering badges or books as rewards. Some hold discussion-and-pizza book groups – a great way to promote reading and social skills.
  • “Read” a movie. Read books that have been turned into movies, then rent the film or see it at the theater. Discuss how closely the movie followed the book, or chart the similarities on a poster board.
  • Send postcards. Let your child buy or make postcards to send to friends, whether he’s on a trip or in his own back yard. Encourage him to keep up a running commentary – writing is a critical skill to practice over the summer.
  • Keep a journal. Help your child keep a journal of the summer’s events. Photos and memorabilia can help her remember details as she practices her writing and retelling skills. When the next school year begins, she can share the journal with her teacher and classmates – a creative way to introduce herself.