Parents of children with ADHD may dread the summertime. But never fear: There are many ways to mold your child's behavior in the absence of school.
If you're the parent of a youngster with ADHD, you may dread
the coming summer vacation. Most kids with ADHD do best in a structured
environment, and summer may spell trouble for kids used to the routine of the
But summertime doesn't have to be a cause for worry -- though
it is a cause for planning. Susan Barton, founder of Bright Solutions for
Dyslexia and an authority in the fields of dyslexia and attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), suggests that most of the behavior-management
techniques parents use during the year should continue during the summer.
Although some pediatricians with special training in the disorder will diagnose ADHD in children, most will refer you and your child to a mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, counselor, or social worker trained in diagnosing and treating the disorder.
You can also find a professional who specializes in ADHD diagnosis through your health plan, your child’s teacher or school counselor, other parents of children with ADHD, or nonprofit organizations such as Children and...
Maintaining a consistent routine and schedule at home
Maintaining a consistent set of rules with consistent consequences
Maintaining a positive feedback/positive reinforcement system to further
develop appropriate behaviors
"What I do encourage parents to change is the
child's sleep patterns," says Barton. "Most children with ADHD are
night owls and have a very hard time getting up in the morning. During the
summer, allow these children to follow their natural sleep and waking
Summertime means not only a change for kids, says Michael
Manos, PhD, but for their parents as well. "During the summer, the burden
of responsibility falls on the parent," says Manos, director of the ADHD
Summer Treatment Program at The Cleveland Clinic.
The Summer Treatment Program is a day camp with all the
traditional camping activities such as sports, arts and crafts, and computer
classes. "It's fun and interesting," says Manos. But camp staff also
work closely with the youngsters to give the constant feedback and
reinforcement that ADHD kids need.
"We're very clear on what the expectations are," says
Manos, explaining that the children earn points and privileges (and the older
kids, even money) for positive behaviors such as helping and sharing,
cooperating, contributing to group discussions, and paying attention.
Privileges can be taken away for negative behaviors such as whining and
complaining, interrupting, and poor sportsmanship.
The Summer Treatment Program is one of about six such programs
across the country, developed by William Pelham, PhD, from the State University
of New York, Buffalo. "This is considered the 'Rolls Royce' of summer
programs for kids with ADHD," says Manos.
If there is no ADHD summer program near you, you can still send
your kids to camp or even take them on vacation. Jane N. Hannah, EdD, author of
Parenting a Child with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder,
recommends that as you plan activities for your child this summer, you consider
Select a camp that is well-supervised. Contact local chapters of CHADD
(Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder), SEPTA (Special Education
PTA), and the American Camping Association to inquire about appropriate
programs in your area.
Let the camp staff know that your child has ADHD and how the symptoms of
the condition may affect his experiences in the camp.
If your child takes medication, don't expect him to handle the camp
experience without it.
Visit the camp prior to your child's first day.
Sleepover camps may not be suitable for some children. But if you decide
your child is ready for an overnight camp, visit the camp ahead of time,
prepare your child in advance by looking at brochures about the camp, talking
about it, and watching videos of the camp. Acknowledge your child's fears and
talk about them. Don't increase your child's anxiety by talking about your own
anxiety of his leaving. Leave a note in his suitcase with a small gift, and
write to him each day. These notes or cards should be funny and cheerful but
have little information about what is happening at home. Short closings are
best, such as "See you real soon."
If you are planning a vacation trip with your child, be pro-active. If you
will be traveling for more than an hour, prepare a recreational package that
can be opened when he gets in the car, plane, or train. Books on tape, drawing
paper and crayons, and puzzles are good choices. Before leaving the house, set
the rules for behavior while on the trip. Make approximately four rules and
phrase these positively: What you want him to do, rather than what you want him
to stop doing. Remember to give your child positive feedback when he is
following the rules. The rule for parents: Attend to your child when he is
acting appropriately. Don't give attention only when you are giving