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ADHD in Children Health Center

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ADHD Summer Survival Tips

How to keep ADHD kids happy and healthy all summer long. Plus, is summer the right time for a medication vacation?

ADHD Medication Vacation?

Another hot-button issue for many parents is whether to stop or adjust their child's ADHD medication during the summer. Parents may crave the respite because these medications can have unwanted side effects, such as poor appetite, and many have an inherent fear of having their children on any medication -- especially a stimulant-type drug. Some parents may just want to see how their child fares without medication when there are no academic pressures.

"Parents can consider using the summer to address concerns and questions that they have about their child's current medication regimen," Grcevich says. For example, "if parents see that the child gets benefit from medication but is having worrisome side effects, they can consider a trial of different medication in summer."

The warm-weather months are a safer time to try this because "you don't have to worry about your child failing tests or doing poorly academically during the summer, so it can be a good time to make these changes," says Fleiss.

Robertson took her son off medication one summer. "While on medication, Anthony was better able to play patiently with peers, follow directions, and sit still without a major battle," she recalls. "When we took him off meds for the summer, Anthony's hyperactivity, impulsivity, and inability to pay attention returned with a vengeance. It became a full-time job to try to entertain him in an effort to keep him from creating his own entertainment."

Off medication, with full-blown ADHD symptoms, Anthony used to burn ants and once lit the neighbor's dry leaves on fire -- among other things, she says.

But Nancie Steinberg, a New York City-based public relations expert, is still not sure what she will do about her son Austen's ADHD medication this summer. "I gave him a reprieve during winter break as an experiment, but I think it showed me he needs it to stay focused and not restless," she says. "I may try again this summer to see what he is like and determine if he truly needs to be medicated."

If Steinberg or other parents decide to let their children take a medication break, Grcevich says, "We strongly encourage them to resume medication two weeks prior to the new school year so that kids are prepared to perform at their best from day one."

Of course, ADHD is a condition with different levels of symptoms and severity. Every ADHD child is different and requires an individual assessment. Parents should speak with their child's doctor about the best approach during the summer -- and year-round.

Reviewed on May 04, 2008

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