School is Back
How to have an Endless Summer for Kids with ADHD
By: Lewis S. Odell, Ph.D.
It’s the end of the summer, and many children with ADHD had weeks upon end during which they seemed unbothered by distractibility, excessive talking, avoiding activities that require sustained mental effort, or blurting things out. During the summer kids with ADHD did not get in trouble for being disruptive, rarely complained about being bored, and were far less likely to display the signs of frustration that occur during the school year. They also didn’t have any homework to do, didn’t have to sit in a confined classroom for hours, and didn’t have to worry about completing writing assignments while their minds wandered. They had long stretches of time to be outside, hang out with friends, run around, and engage their brains with the things they were most interested in. Some experts have suggested that this type of environment is a simple and natural cure for the symptoms of ADHD.
While your child with ADHD might still have managed to get into a bit of mischief this summer, the freedom and outdoor nature of a summer vacation are healthy for most kids with ADHD. With the start of the school year, these children are already preparing for an environment that often does not meet their needs for movement, stimulation, and cognitive engagement. Is there any way to continue this type of simple and natural cure for ADHD once the school year begins? Here are a few strategies that might help:
Become an advocate for outdoor time. Far too many schools sacrifice outdoor recess, breaks, and school activities that benefit children with ADHD for a limited focus on academics and tasks to improve standardized test scores. On an individual basis, you could work with the school to develop a 504 plan that includes daily activity for your child with ADHD.
Treat every day like a summer day. Make going outside the norm no matter what the time of year. If you live in a northern climate, ensure that your child has very warm winter clothes and help them enjoy the snow with activities like skiing, snowshoeing, and even shoveling snow from driveways.
Help them avoid frustration. This doesn’t mean ducking out on responsibilities. It does mean making necessary tasks more enjoyable. Get a standup desk for kids who have trouble remaining seated when doing their homework. You might even try having them do their reading on a stationary bike. Encourage a child with ADHD to use a fun homework organizer. Once she becomes a confident reader, she can listen to books to improve her reading comprehension. Go to the library to look things up and complete homework and then make a side trip to a local ice cream shop.
Make school a social experience. Encourage your child to invite a friend over to do homework together. Help her learn how to use Google hangouts to work on school projects or consult with her friends about homework. Talk to her teacher so that she does not become overwhelmed by excessive amounts of homework.
Make sure that every day is a day for playing. All kids need to play, and those with ADHD need play time not only for relaxation, but also to improve skills for attention and learning.
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.