“School’s over. YAY! I have no homework today!”
Do these words sound familiar? Most children and teens with ADHD (and without it) are thrilled to have a break from academics and enjoy their summer–their free time. Yet, children with learning challenges can lose some of the important gains that they made over the school year if they do not continue to use those new skills. How can you encourage your child to maintain those gains without “ruining” their summer break with unwanted schoolwork?
First, set reasonable goals based on your knowledge of your child’s academic performance as well as their own perceptions. So, start with a conversation. Maintaining learned skills differs from learning new ones and it’s the preservation that matters most here. Let go of any notions you may have of teaching your ADHD child this or that new academic skill and focus instead on what your child or teen has already mastered. For elementary students, review their report cards and any relevant work from the year to assist you in creating your goals. For teens, they may already have summer homework so you can sit down and plan out their work strategy for completing it in a timely fashion. Make sure to use a calendar to help you and emphasize the importance of NOT leaving things until late August to avoid a crisis.
Secondly, since the goal is upholding and strengthening what your son or daughter has already grasped, find materials that meet them where they are. Elementary kids may like selecting books in a series that they have already started, getting a math workbook or finding an online math or science program to review the subjects in a game format. High school kids can always benefit from reading a compelling book so help them find something that matches their interests. You could even read the book simultaneously and then casually talk about it with them while driving in the car together or doing the dishes. In general, reading ANYTHING is a great idea–whether it’s a mystery, graphic novel or Minecraft story. Magazines count too! Sometimes reading on an electronic device like a Kindle or Nook has added benefits such as keeping them focused on one small page at a time and using an electronic device!
Thirdly, talk with your ADHD child or teen about the minimum amount of time each day or week to do this maintenance program. This does not mean debating its value; it means agreeing on working for at least 15 minutes a day or an hour a week or whatever you together decide. If you need to incentivize the activity, then link doing the work to something they want to do: “Okay, we can play catch after you read for 20 minutes.” Or, “You can watch your show after you do this math game.” Or, “You can have the car when you can tell me what happened in the next chapter.”
Be as creative and positive as you can be. These tasks don’t have to be painful and can be framed as the important continuation of cognitive growth that they are.