Expert tips on keeping ADHD children (and their parents) happy during vacation

A parents’ guide for staying sane in the summer.

Children studying (illustrative) (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE PHOTO: TAMAR SCHAPIRO)
Children studying (illustrative)
As most camps have come to an end and the long hot month of August looms ahead with children underfoot, Dr.
Maly Danino, an expert on learning disorders, spoke with The Jerusalem Post about making the most out of the summer with children with ADHD.
It is important to understand what the children are going through, said Danino, who is the director of Nitzan, the Israeli Association for Children and Adults with Learning Disabilities, as a parent’s attitude toward the child has great effect on his or her behavior. While it is difficult to understand how Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects a person’s brain, Danino likened it to having cars driving in all different directions.
“They are surrounded by all sorts of stimuli,” explained Danino, adding that they are constantly being pulled in different directions.
While children with ADHD are sensitive to distractions around them, Danino warned that the real issue is that “it is often very difficult for them to be bored... to do something that isn’t of great interest to them.”
What can help keep children – and their parents – sane and happy during the summer vacation? “It’s very important to build their day,” said Danino. “It helps them a lot when they know what and when they’re going to do each activity.”
While they do not get the final say in the matter, she also recommended involving the children in the process of planning the schedule. Getting their input can help keep them excited and focused.
Parental engagement is important for the children.
Baking, learning about subjects that interest the children, and even just watching a television show together can all be good activities, Danino advised, but added that parents should always be aware of how long activities last.
There is no set amount of time for an activity that will be suitable for all children, but Danino said it is important to keep an eye on a child’s interest level in a project and when they begin to show signs of boredom, it is time to move on to another activity before they become overwhelmed.
Using the summer vacation as a time to connect with children is important, Danino stressed.
“This time is a valuable asset and it should be used properly,” she said, explaining that one such use can be speaking with children about the previous school year and difficulties they may have experienced and how to make the coming year better.
In terms of meeting with friends, Danino cautioned parents of children with ADHD from simply sending them over, and suggested setting up a meeting at their own home first, saying that “it is worth doing in their natural environment” to see how they interact.
Toward the end of August, about a week before the new school year begins, it is important to get the children back on schedule, including a set bedtime and a clear daytime routine, as it takes them time to get back into their regular school-year routine.
Another important step to take before the school year begins is to initiate a meeting with both the child and the homeroom teacher. Discussing how ADHD affects the child and preparing together for ways to deal with difficulties will help get the teacher on the child’s side.
Among the things a parent can bring up at the meeting are ensuring the child sits at the front of the classroom, allowing the child to leave the classroom for short walks, and allowing him or her to doodle in their notebooks, all in an effort to allow them to enhance their focus and concentration.
Different children will have different specific needs that can be discussed with the teacher to reach optimal solutions.
Finally, Danino recommended thinking very carefully about continuing medication during summer vacation.
While many parents think that with no schoolwork it is not necessary, she said there was need to think about the price that both the child and parents pay.
“Sometimes the price is too high,” she said, especially with the heat and the aggravation that mounts when the child is bored and unfocused.
The Nitzan organization has branches across the country and offers courses for parents to help them understand what their children with ADHD deal with on a daily basis.
It also operates a hotline on Sundays through Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 14:00 p.m., with English-speaking psychologists, educational counselors and diagnosticians available to talk with parents of children with ADHD and learning disabilities.