Summer Activities for Children with ADHD
By: Lewis S. Odell, Ph.D.
Lewis S. Odell, Ph.D. is the Founder and President of LearningWorks for Kids, an educational technology company that specializes in using video games and interactive digital media to teach executive-functioning and academic skills. For the past 25 years, Dr. Odell has also been the Clinical Director and President of South County Child and Family Consultants, a multidisciplinary group of private practitioners that specializes in assessment and interventions for children with learning disorders and attention difficulties.
School is not the only place for children with ADHD to learn. In fact, for many children with ADHD, activities outside of the classroom may be the ones from which they derive the greatest benefit. Summer without the constraints of a classroom is often the best time to promote new learning for a curious and energetic child with ADHD. It is important to find engaging activities that can improve traditional subjects such as mathematics, reading, and writing.
Summer learning opportunities are particularly crucial for children with ADHD, who tend to experience a summer slump in which they fall two or more months behind in academic subjects if they do not continue to practice their skills. One strategy is to utilize a variety of educational games and apps to practice academic skills during the summer. It is very important to identify apps that are at a child’s level but that continue to challenge his or her mastery. Complementing this approach is to connect additional “educational” activities that develop skills to help children with ADHD. These include:
Mathematics. Help your child to start a business and become an entrepreneur. Set up an account with eBay and encourage your child to sell some of his or her old toys or some of your unused household possessions. Help your child with the mathematics of determining what it costs to list an item, figuring how much shipping costs will be, and setting a reasonable price for selling the item. Encourage your child to explore what similar items are sold for and to keep track of all the mathematics necessary in order to become profitable. You could use the same principles for setting up a lemonade stand, having a garage sale, or selling items on craigslist.
Reading. Insist that summer be an opportunity to develop and enhance your child’s knowledge of a particular interest. Use a multi-media approach to the acquisition of knowledge that includes reading on a regular basis. For example, take your child’s interest in playing the video game Minecraft and expand it into an interest in construction, architecture, and geology. Take a road trip to a place where some type of mining occurs, visit cathedrals and large skyscrapers, and take out picture books about these topics from the library. You could use the same approach with developing an interest in topics as diverse as nature, astronomy, or movies.
Writing. Approximately 60% of children diagnosed with ADHD struggle with their writing skills. Summer is an ideal time to acquire alternative methods for learning how to write. Your child could use this time away from school to acquire typing or dictation skills that can circumvent the need for handwriting and also facilitate more efficient strategies for note taking, report writing, and study skills. Help your child learn how to use Dragon Dictation or Siri on a smartphone for taking notes and writing rough drafts of an essay. Engage in a family competition to develop typing skills on a traditional keyboard or on a mobile device. If you make acquisition of these new writing skills into a fun and challenging activity that involves your whole family, your child with ADHD is more likely to develop writing skills that he or she will use when school reopens in September.
Learn more about Dr. Odell:
Dr. Odell is the author of numerous essays on the use of digital technologies for improving executive-functioning skills in children in which he has developed concepts such as “play diets” and “engamement” to help parents and teachers understand the impact of digital technologies on children. He is the author of Train Your Brain for Success: A Teenager’s Guide to Executive Functions and Playing Smarter in a Digital World: A Guide to Choosing and Using Popular Video Games and Apps to Improve Executive Functioning in Children and Teens.