ADHD in children: Should parents halt medication during summer vacation?

Decision to continue treatment for ADHD over the summer should be made in consultation with the parents, treating physician and the children themselves, neurologist specializing in ADHD in children says

Dr. Ran Barak|
Summer break is here, and many parents are debating whether to continue the therapeutic treatment for their children's attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, or to pause it until the start of the school year. Here's what you need to know and how to make a decision.
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ADHD is a common condition, with approximately 7% to 10% of children and adolescents diagnosed with the disorder. It is not just about difficulty in listening or learning, but can manifest in broader challenges, including behavioral impulsivity, motor and emotional restlessness, and difficulties with planning and organization.
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Approximately 7% to 10% of children and adolescents are diagnosed with ADHD
(Photo: Shutterstock)
ADHD can affect not only school performance but also daily functioning, relationships and social interactions. This is why there is uncertainty regarding the continuation of treatment during the summer vacation. But wait, do medications have to be used?
Do children need to use medication? No, they don't have to. Nowadays, the field of ADHD treatment offers a wide range of solutions for children dealing with attention disorders. Before considering medication, it is important to explore behavioral therapy, since many non-medical approaches can be effective. As health care professionals, our role is first to diagnose ADHD accurately and then, in collaboration with parents, decide on the most suitable tools to improve the children's quality of life, considering the nature of their attention disorder.
If it is jointly determined that the impact on the child's quality of life is significant and requires the intervention of medication, the role of the physician is to tailor the optimal treatment to the needs of the child.
Who might need treatment during the vacation? I believe that children who have a significant component of behavioral impulsivity may require treatment with medication even during their summer vacation. There are children for whom medication therapy also assists with social interactions, and it may be beneficial to consider continuing medication during summer activities such as summer camps. It's important to remember that in many cases, ADHD does not only affect the child during school hours but has a broad and ongoing impact throughout the day, regardless of the setting. Sometimes, difficulties with behavioral impulsivity can affect the child's quality of life during vacations and social situations, as well as their awareness of dangers and injuries.
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קושי בהתמודדות עם בעית קשב וריכוז
קושי בהתמודדות עם בעית קשב וריכוז
ADHD does not only affect the child during school hours but has a broad and ongoing impact throughout the day, regardless of the setting
(Photo: Shutterstock)
How do we know what our child needs? The decision regarding the optimal continuation of treatment for children with ADHD during summer vacation, or any vacation, should be made in consultation with the parents, treating physician, and the children themselves, especially when dealing with adolescents. The role of the parent is to provide feedback to the physician regarding how the medication generally affects the child, the family's vacation plans, and the nature of the expected activities. Together with the physician, the most appropriate decision can be made for the child.
How to cope with children during the vacation? First and foremost, it's important to maintain a routine. For children with ADHD, having a routine is essential, even during vacation. A routine is important because one of the challenges of ADHD is difficulty with time management, and children with ADHD benefit from an external "clock" that guides their behavior.
Additionally, paying attention to appropriate sleep patterns, healthy nutrition, physical activity and similar factors is important. These factors not only impact attention deficit but also affect the children's mood, which can be a trigger for other influences on their behavior.
Vacation is an excellent opportunity to assess whether the treatment is indeed improving the quality of life for the child. During regular routines, parents may have a harder time observing their children's activities. In contrast, during an extended vacation, when parents have more interaction with their children and additional time beyond after-school hours, they can evaluate the impact of the treatment more comprehensively and ensure that it is beneficial for them.
If we decide to pause medication, how do we resume it?
If it is decided to temporarily discontinue treatment, it is advisable to determine in advance when and how to resume medication therapy. It is important to note that after a prolonged break from ADHD medication, some side effects may reappear, primarily in the form of headaches and stomach aches.
After a prolonged break, it is advisable to reintroduce medication therapy for attention and concentration gradually. The decision should be made by the parents and the treating physician, based on the needs of the child with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder and their response to medication therapy.
Dr. Ran Barak is a neurologist specializing in ADHD in children
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