Should Your Child Continue ADD/ADHD Medication During Summer Break?
Often parents wonder if their children should continue medication for ADD/ADHD over summer break. This is something that families need to sit down and discuss with their child’s doctor. Some parents don’t think treatment is needed if there is no school. They may want to observe their child’s behavior for some time without medication or give them a break from the side effects. Other parents may say that their child could not do anything without medication due to extreme hyperactivity, impulsivity and distractibility. Whether or not to take medication over the summer depends on a variety of factors and should always be discussed with the child’s prescribing physician.
ADD/ADHD is a disorder that is diagnosed when symptoms (for example inattention, distractibility, hyperactivity, or impulsivity) are present in “several settings”, not just in school. For some children, these symptoms cause the most interference in the school setting. However, for many other children, these symptoms are present and cause interference in other situations, such as at home and with peers. Even when there is no school, there is still a need for children to get along with family members and friends. Difficulties from symptoms of ADHD may affect the parent-child relationship, impact the child’s self-esteem or cause difficulties in social relationships. A continuing conversation with the prescribing physician needs to occur on a regular basis to determine if the risks and benefits of the medication are outweighing any risks from not treating the symptoms of ADD/ADHD.
Some questions to consider regarding whether to continue medication for ADD/ADHD over the summer include asking if there will be any significant interference without treatment based on what he or she will be doing. Will symptoms interfere with participation in camp activities or playing with other kids? Will behaviors interfere with family activities including any travel plans? Can your child focus to do summer reading, reinforce math facts, practice writing or keyboarding skills? Without medication, will your child be in trouble frequently, be yelled at, put in “time out” or told to change his or her behavior constantly?
Medication to treat ADD/ADHD is used so children can be successful in their endeavors, not to make things easier for the adults around them. Sometimes, medication may be needed over the summer, but at a lower dose or for a shorter duration of action than during the school year. These options can also be explored when discussing the medication plan for the summer. Although most medications used for ADD/ADHD can be stopped and re-started when needed, there are some that need to be slowly discontinued or re-started over a few weeks. If the summer medication plan differs from the school year plan, it may be advisable to return to the school year plan before the first day of school. This way, there are not two big changes on the same day. Before making any changes in your child’s medication plan, always discuss medication concerns with your child’s prescribing physician.
Originally published for Chesapeake Family Life.