It used to be common practice for children with ADHD to take a medication break for summer vacation. However, these days many children take their medication through the summer. Some of this has to do with a better understanding of ADHD as affecting a child’s functioning in activities other than school. Some has to do with the changing nature of the American family and society. These days more kids spend time in summer camp or daycare than ranging free or spending the whole time with family. Whatever the reasons, this is still a decision that parents have to make individually for each child with ADHD. Here are some practical considerations as you make your decision.
Signs that your child probably should remain on medication for the summer
1. Your child has to attend summer school or an academic program for the summer.
2. Your child has to attend a program, such as day camp, which will entail participation in organized activities requiring focus. This is up for debate, because kids with ADHD can focus well on things they enjoy. If camp will entail a variety of activities (some enjoyable and some not so enjoyable), focus may become a problem. If camp is for one purpose only and it is one that your child enjoys (sports or art, for example), you may want to give your child a chance.
3. Your problem has problems with social interactions off medication and will spend their summer supervised with someone not experienced in behavioral management of ADHD.
4. Your child is taking a long acting nonstimulant. These medications usually have to build up in dose to be effective. This can take up to 6 weeks, by which time, summer is half over.
5. Your child requests it. Tweens and teens should have a say in whether they will or will not take medication. The more you listen to their reasoning, the more likely they are to go along with the plan.
6. Your child takes medication to control behaviors that are hyperactive or impulsive. Impulsive behaviors also include issues like impulsive anger/hot temper.
7. Your child has taken a recent medication holiday (for example if he forgot to take it) and did not do well.
Signs your child should take a medication break over the summer
1. Your child is losing or failing to gain enough weight on medication.
2. Your child has other bothersome side effects, but needs the medication for school performance only (not for hyperactive, impulsive, or angry behaviors).
3. Your child is a preteen or teen who does not want to take medication and needs a trial off medication to prove they need or do not need it.
4. Your child will be able to run free over the summer break and you do not mind dealing with the symptoms when they are at home (some children with primarily inattentive ADHD fall into this category).