Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and those with Executive Function Disorder (EFD) may lose more than learning during the long summer vacation. Not only will they forget up to two months’ worth of what they learned during the school year, they are also likely to slide back on the self-discipline and good habits that they worked so hard during the school year to maintain or to gain.
These students have difficulty regulating themselves, focusing on and completing activities. They are most settled when they know what the day holds in store and what they will be expected to do. This helps give them a sense of security and allows them to plan. Routines and structures encourage their self-discipline, organizational skills and self-confidence. Having control over their behavior and meeting goals gives them a sense of achievement which reinforces the benefits of following through to meet expectations.
There is much that can be done during summer vacation to maintain the momentum of the school year progress. It’s a good idea to discuss the plans for summer days while school is still in session so that the student knows ahead of time that there still will be structure after the final bell rings.
Together with your child, construct a general plan for each day, a framework so that essential good habits will be maintained. Writing out a schedule and putting it in a prominent place will serve as a reminder for the child and it will be rewarding for him to move down the list to completion.
Your student will benefit from having his own calendar on which to note special occasion days, sports team practice days, family outing days, the day to return to school and the like. He’ll be alerted to organize for those days and will get accustomed to the idea that school will start again in the fall.
Providing your child with his own personal conventional analog alarm clock so that he can be mindful of the time of day and become aware of how long he spends with particular activities will encourage the budgeting of time. Learning to tell time on a conventional clock is a valuable skill for the student.
Going to bed at an hour similar to school nights will help ensure that he is getting enough sleep. He should maintain the good habit of organizing whatever might be needed in the morning. Placing the next day’s clothes and needed items in full view will lend efficiency to his morning, saving time and helping to eliminate confusion over items that cannot be readily located when it’s time to leave the house.
Setting his own alarms so that he can awaken close to the school year routine time will give him a sense of responsibility about time. Setting of alarms so that he can remind himself to get ready for a planned activity will give him a sense of control with time enough to have a comfortable feeling of being prepared. Time management is a life-long skill.
Maintaining the priority of hygiene and getting dressed for the day rather than staying in pajamas will foster a good self-image and ambition. Tending to his personal environment, tidying up after himself and making the bed each day will benefit his self-discipline and organizational skills. Neatness itself is a time-saver which makes it easier to deal with an unexpected schedule disruption.
The child should have chores around the house or yard and regarding the care of any pets that the family has. Following directions and accepting responsibility will increase his time management skills and his memory functions. Being accountable and dependable will serve him well always. He will feel good about himself too.
An important summer goal which will teach methods of approaching a large project is the cleaning and organization of his closets, drawers and areas of toys or games. Our personal environment influences our self-image and, when it is neat and organized, we are encouraged to match that in our activities. Your student will study far better by organizing his homework area and approaching the books with clear purpose.
Clutter is confusing, distracts us, slows us down and lowers our enthusiasm for new projects. To foster enthusiasm for the project of eliminating clutter, help your child to avoid feeling overwhelmed by dividing this work into manageable ‘chunks’ so that there will be encouraging daily achievements and so that the entire project will be completed. Help him make of an overview outline of what is to be done, decide the order of priority and what will be needed to eliminate the outgrown clothing, the broken-beyond-repair and whatever no longer wanted items and clutter might have been collected during the school year. Remind him that it’s necessary to make room for the items that will replace the ones that are being discarded.
Most of us are reluctant to part with an item without further thought. Along with a waste bin and a donate/hand-down/yard sale bin, a ‘let me wait on this’ bin and a ‘souvenir-save me in storage’ bin should be available so that your student will have some control. The ‘let me wait on this’ bin decreases any anxiety that the child may have about letting go of things, but it should be looked at and evaluated regularly with only the truly treasured put back. Appreciating orderliness is a good habit for a lifetime. Dealing with chaos is especially difficult for the child with ADHD and the child with EFD.
Limiting time spent on video games or watching television will help the child make a smoother transition back to the classroom where the focus will be on real people without special effects. Being ‘unplugged’ from internet and other external stimulation allows the child to think his own thoughts, to enjoy time undisturbed to read, to create or to engage in healthy physical activity. He will learn the joy of imagining, of observing the world around him with his own inspirations, independent of the ideas presented by the television, video games, etc. Playing and interacting with family and friends during outdoor games, board games and conversation without the interference of a television program will increase the skill of forming sentences, grow vocabulary, enhance the social skills of cooperation and communication.
Creation with craft supplies will enhance planning, organization and coordination skills as well as imagination. Following through to the completion of the craft item will provide satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment.
Outdoor activities should be planned for each day if possible. Children with ADHD and with EFD need energy-expending physical activity. Joining an organized sports team will teach teamwork as well as provide needed social interaction and exercise. During the school year, the child interacts with his peers daily. Important social skills may be lost in the summer.
Proper nutrition is necessary all year round and often is more difficult to maintain during the summer vacation. Not being in a classroom, the child has more opportunity to snack on sugary treats, those overly laden with empty calories or fats. Providing healthy snacks such as carrots and celery, fruit and whole-grain items is a plus. Encourage your child to drink water rather than soda to stay hydrated and to protect his teeth as well.
Your child will enjoy setting goals for reading when he can share his accomplishments with the family by presenting brief book reports. Many libraries have summer reading programs for children. Visit the local library regularly so that your student can choose books at his appropriate reading level which spark his interest. It’s important to maintain reading skills during the summer; even better to enhance them.
Activities such as writing often fall by the wayside during the summer. Creating a short story and illustrating his own small book will provide great satisfaction to a student. A young child could create a counting book, illustrating it with one, two, three and more animals or objects as the numbers go up. Keeping a diary provides practice in writing coordination as well as sentence formation, grammar, vocabulary, spelling and such. It’s also a look-back on accomplishments and preparation for answering teachers’ questions about what the students did during their summer vacation.
The regular schedule for school homework time should stay in place, to be filled in the summer with a review of learning, advancing in subjects, and growing reading skills. Learning is part of everyday life. Whether it is learning a new computer, how to fix the gadget that just broke, or the requirements of the new job, we are always gaining knowledge.
Students in general forget or lose about two months’ worth of prior learning during the long summer vacation. This regression may be more significant for a student with learning differences. When students return to school in the fall, they work to recoup or regain the lost knowledge and they learn new material as well. This recouping is more difficult for the student with learning differences.
If your ADHD or EFD student has an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) with his learning differences, he may be qualify for Extended School Year (ESY) services, such as summer tutoring, to minimize his loss of learning and better prepare him for the return to school in the fall. Now is the time to request an IEP team meeting to determine if your child is eligible.
Lear Educational Center provides tutoring designed to meet the individual needs of students. We accommodate and compensate for learning differences. We interface with schools to help students meet IEP and remediation goals, the challenges of today and of tomorrow.
As the summer vacation draws to a close, encourage eagerness to return to school by gathering supplies and reminding the student of his accomplishments so far with statements such as, “You’re going to be in “nth” grade soon. You are growing up so nicely and I’m so proud of you.”