Preventing Summer Brain Drain in Your ADHD Child

Deborah Health Guide
  • Summer vacation is almost upon us. You can tell because the number of field trips are increasing - teachers know that even students without Attention Deficit Disorder lose the ability to focus in the last couple of weeks of school, so why fight it?

    For kids with ADHD, especially those who struggle with academics, summer vacation is a welcome relief from the grind of lessons. For parents, it’s a relief to be free of the need to nag the kids about homework.

    But that’s also a bad thing. Summer vacation will not only let everything your child learned dribble out his ears, but he’ll also get out of the learning mode. The first couple of weeks back to school is always hard for children, but especially for children with ADHD, and it will be here before you know it.

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    Staying in learning mode all summer not only keeps your child’s brain active, but the continued familiarity with the learning process will make back to school less of a shock. However, it is summer, after all. Like everything else in summer, learning needs to be somewhat relaxed.

    A few years ago, before my son was diagnosed with ADHD, I tried to keep his brain from turning to mush in the summertime by getting a “Summer Bridge” workbook. I knew that getting him to do schoolwork during the summer would be a challenge; I didn’t anticipate that I would give up (I am very stubborn). But although it wasn’t exactly a disaster (he ended up doing about 30 pages of the workbook), it was a fight the whole way. Like most of us with ADHD, he’s bright, but learns better with hands-on activities than he does with traditional learning methods. Here are some ideas to help you keep learning going without too many howls of protest:

    Summer reading program

    Why not get a jump on next year’s reading? Many schools post the reading lists for each grade on their website. If not, contact the school to see if you can get the titles of a few books. You can check with your library to see if it has a summer reading contest or club. The most important thing is to keep your child reading during the summer - even comic books, if that’s all she wants to read. You’re not necessarily trying to mold your child into the next Shakespeare, just trying to keep the reading muscles strong.

    Brown Paper School Books

    This series of books with titles like “Math for Smarty Pants,” “The Reasons for Seasons,” “My Backyard History Book,” “Blood and Guts: A Working Guide to Your Insides” are probably the most painless way for a parent to come up with their own fun, hands-on activities for summer learning. Although the series is out of print, you can still find copies on Amazon or eBay, and possibly your library.

    Fun educational websites

    You probably have trouble tearing your ADHD child away from computers and video games. That interest can be harnessed for the learning process by using online websites. It can be tricky to separate the junky “educational” sites from the real ones, but below are some that I like:

  • Brain Pop

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    San Francisco Symphony website for kids
    Giggle Poetry
    Funology science experiments

    Get started on the science fair

    Our school’s science fair is in April, and to be honest, the timing isn’t great. There’s just too much going on during the school year to research possible projects, plan and execute the project in time. Why not move the start time to summer and get the research phase done?

    Review last year’s curriculum

    If you’ve kept the graded homework and tests, you can create some quizzes for your child. Not as much fun as the other suggestions, but just a few minutes of review a day will keep things fresh in your child’s mind.

    You can also use the Core Knowledge series of books by E.D. Hirsch to create your own curriculum. We’re on “What Your Fourth Grader Needs to Know.” You can find them online or in your library. Another good book from the Core Knowledge Foundation is Books to Build On: A Grade-by-Grade Resource Guide for Parents and Teachers


    What other methods have worked for you?

Published On: May 23, 2012