Should your child take her ADHD medication during the summer? It is usually an easy decision for children with ADHD who are very hyperactive and aggressive, when the answer is usually yes. And for parents who don't like giving their children a stimulant, it is common to stop it when their kids aren't in school.
But this is an important decision and you should take some time to make the best one for both you and your child. Many children with ADHD do not have problems only when they are in school and they do benefit from taking their medication every day. However, unlike many other medications, stimulants do not usually have to be given every day for them to work. Many parents only give their children their medication when they are in school and give them breaks on weekends and holidays, especially during the summer.
To start with, remember that part of the diagnosis of ADHD includes that your child's symptoms, whether she is inattentive, easily distracted, impulsive, and/or hyperactive, should be causing some impairment her functioning, including causing difficulty in school, or in social situations. If your child is functioning very well when out of school and does well at home and with friends, then she may not need any medication when she is not in school.
However, if her ADHD symptoms do cause some impairment, either at home, where she might be getting in a lot of trouble, or when socializing with others, leading her to have few or any friends, then if it helps, she would likely benefit from taking her medication year round.
Another alternative is to just give your child her medicine when she needs it, such as on days when she is in summer school, at camp, during a trip, or when she has to go to a summer job. I have several parents whose children are taking long acting stimulants, such as Adderall XR and Concerta, who like to change back to a short acting one during the summer so that they have more flexibility of when to have their child on medication.
If you do decide to stop giving your child her ADHD medication, don't wait until she has an important activity to do before doing it. Stopping her medication and then sending her to camp or going on a trip is not a good idea, since you don't really know how she will handle not being on medication. Instead, give yourself some time to observe your child off medicine.
Taking a break from medication can be especially helpful if your child doesn't like taking it, or if she has side effects, such as a poor appetite or poor growth. Many doctors and parents believe that 'drug holidays' can give your child's growth time to 'catch-up.'
Most importantly, talk to your child about what she wants to do. Even if you really think she needs it, if your child is resistant to taking her medicine and wants to try stopping, you can often let her and see how she does, with a compromise that she will take it again if she isn't doing well.
The other important question that comes up during summer is if you should start of the new school year on medication. This one is more simple and the answer is almost always yes. Since the new school year has a lot of new challenges and routines to get used to, adding the extra stress of doing it without medication is usually not a good idea. Instead, give your child a few weeks or months to adjust to the new year, and then, if she is doing really well and you think she might continue to do well without medicine, then you can consider stopping it.
And be sure to always talk to your Pediatrician before stopping any medication that has been prescribed to your child. If stopping an ADHD medication during the school year, getting your child's teachers input into the decision can also be helpful.