Summer Structure for the ADHD and Learning Disabled Child

Summer Structure for the ADHD and Learning Disabled Child
Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

As a parent, the arrival of summer often paints a vivid picture in your mind — a vibrant kaleidoscope of sun-drenched days, brimming with the infectious laughter of children, the thrilling splashes at the pool, and the delightful clatter of exploration and play. It's that magical season when the textbooks and pencils take a break, classrooms are swapped for playgrounds, and the world becomes a boundless stage for enjoyment. In essence, summer is a symphony of joy and relaxation that every child eagerly awaits.

However, for parents of kids with ADHD or learning disabilities, the onset of summer also heralds a subtle undercurrent of apprehension. With the school bell silent for a couple of months, the highly structured school days give way to an unstructured panorama of free time, or as the French say, a “laissez-faire” approach. For children with ADHD, who thrive on routine and predictability, or those with learning disabilities, who may need continuous reinforcement of skills, this sudden shift can be more than just a change of pace.

The concern here is not just the transition but its potential aftermath – a phenomenon educators and researchers term as the ‘summer slide.' This refers to the academic regression that can occur when the minds of young learners remain unengaged in educational activities over an extended period (Cooper et al., 1996). Imagine climbing a hill throughout the school year, acquiring knowledge and skills, only to slide back down during the summer, losing a portion of those hard-won gains.

This summer slide is particularly challenging for children with ADHD or learning disabilities. Given the difficulties they may already face in maintaining pace with their peers during the school year, any regression during the summer can widen the gap, necessitating additional effort and support to catch up when the new school year begins.

Yet, the transition from the school year to summer doesn't have to trigger apprehension. Indeed, with thoughtfully planned strategies and the right resources, summer can transform into an empowering opportunity for children with ADHD and learning disabilities. An opportunity to fortify their skills, manage ADHD symptoms better, and, equally importantly, to experience the simple, unadulterated joys of being a child in summer.

Preventing Learning Loss: An Essential Consideration

 

Preventing learning loss over the summer months is a critical aspect of supporting children with ADHD and learning disabilities. The brain, much like a muscle, benefits from regular exercise. When children remain mentally active and engaged in learning over the summer, they not only retain what they've learned during the school year but also prepare their minds for the upcoming academic year (Kim & Quinn, 2013).

Summer, with its relaxed schedule and abundance of free time, presents an excellent opportunity for kids with ADHD and learning disabilities to fill in the gaps in their learning. Whether it's strengthening their reading skills, mastering math concepts, or improving their writing, the right instruction during this period can make a significant difference.

Charting a Fulfilling Summer: Blending Joy, Growth, and Learning

Creating a summer that blends fun, personal growth, and learning may seem like a daunting task. However, with the right strategies, your child can enjoy a fulfilling and productive LD or ADHD summer.

1. Embrace Routine

 

Crafting a daily routine adds predictability to your child's day, which can help manage ADHD symptoms. Design a routine that includes time for outdoor play, creative hobbies, and relaxation, along with periods dedicated to learning.

2. Make Learning Fun

 

Dedicate at least 20 minutes a day to learning activities that keep their minds sharp and ward off the summer slide. Keep in mind that children with learning issues such as dyslexia may need more learning time but make sure they are getting the right instruction or frustration will build.  Encourage reading, enjoyable writing tasks, or educational video games that captivate their interest, so they are less resistant to learning. 

3. Discover Summer Programs

 

Summer programs and day camps tailored for children with ADHD and learning disabilities provide a stimulating environment for learning and fun. These programs integrate learning activities within a relaxed setting, enabling kids to bolster their academic skills while basking in the joys of summer. 

They can be especially enriching for students with dyslexia when they incorporate dyslexic reading instruction and for kids with ADHD when they focus on executive functioning skill building. 

4. Enhance Social Skills

 

Summer is a fabulous time to help your child build on their social skills. Simple activities like playdates, family outings, or participating in team sports can alleviate social difficulties often experienced by children with ADHD.

5. Mindful Tech Use

 

Technology offers educational games and apps beneficial to learning, but it's essential to monitor your child's usage, especially of video games. Strive for a balance between recreational and educational digital consumption. And with clear boundaries in place, you can cut down on your screen time battles too.

6. Life Skills Are Important Too

 

Utilize the extra free time during summer to teach your child essential life skills like household chores, basic money management, or even cooking. These skills can boost their confidence, preparing them for an independent future.

7. Encourage Physical Activity

 

Regular physical activity can help manage ADHD symptoms (Verret et al., 2012). Whether it's team sports, swimming, or a daily walk, physical activity can enhance their overall well-being. Strive for exercises that support the brain and executive functioning

In a nutshell, summer, while being a time for relaxation and fun, can also be a season of growth and learning for your child with ADHD or a learning disability. There are many natural ways to help the brain focus and learn without the dangerous side effects of ADHD medication

A structured, balanced approach can transform these sun-soaked months into a fertile period of development, paving the way for an ADHD summer that's enjoyable, enriching, and academically rewarding.

Citations:

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Cooper, H., Nye, B., Charlton, K., Lindsay, J., & Greathouse, S. (1996). The effects of summer vacation on achievement test scores: A narrative and meta-analytic review. Review of Educational Research, 66(3), 227–268. https://doi.org/10.3102/00346543066003227

Kim, J. S., & Quinn, D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on reading achievement among low-income elementary students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 105(1), 115–127. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031353

Pelham, W. E., Fabiano, G. A., Waxmonsky, J. G., Greiner, A. R., Gnagy, E. M., Pelham, W. E., III, Coxe, S., Verley, J., Bhatia, I., Hart, K., Karch, K., Konijnendijk, E., Tresco, K., Nahum-Shani, I., & Murphy, S. A. (2016). Treatment sequencing for childhood ADHD: a multiple-randomization study of adaptive medication and behavioral interventions. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 45(4), 396–415. https://doi.org/10.1080/15374416.2015.1105138

Verret, C., Guay, M. C., Berthiaume, C., Gardiner, P., & Béliveau, L. (2012). A physical activity program improves behavior and cognitive functions in children with ADHD: An exploratory study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 16(1), 71–80. https://doi.org/10.1177/1087054710379735

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Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of  media outlets including, CBS, NBC, FOX News, PIX11 NYC, The New York Times, The Washington Post,, Business Insider, USA Today, CNET, Marth Stewart, and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.” 

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She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2023

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

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