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Discontinue ADHD Medication during School Vacation?

Should my child take a holiday from Ritalin?

Approximately half of parents of kids with ADHD plan to reduce or discontinue their child’s ADHD medication over school vacations.

Beth Straton, mother of three from NJ asks, “My 8 year old son has ADHD, inattentive type and he is doing very well on Ritilan.  Does he need to continue taking his ADHD medicine when he is out of school, or can I give him a break from it?”

According to a 2004 survey conducted by Eli Lilly and Company, approximately half of parents of kids with ADHD plan to reduce or discontinue their child’s ADHD medication over school vacations, though nearly 80% agreed that their child’s time outside of school is helped by medication. The majority of survey respondents (79%) also agreed that their child’s ADHD treatment makes family time together easier.

Some parents make the decision to give their child a break from medication when their child’s primary issues with ADHD are related to concentration and focus and their symptoms are fairly mild.  Their children have no other significant behavioral or social issues related to their ADHD, and vacation experiences would be just as positive on or off medication.

On the other hand, for a child who struggles daily with hyperactivity, impulsiveness, distractibility, social relationships, and so on, discontinuing medication may have a negative impact and ultimately on this child’s feelings of self-esteem and confidence.

Dr. Edward Hallowell recommends the following considerations for vacation holidays from ADHD medications:

•   Will your child be enrolled in a camp or other activities? If your child has trouble staying on task, listening to directions, relating to peers and controlling his body movement, medication may help make this social and learning time more positive and productive.
•   It is also important to consider if your child will be supervised by adults who are not as familiar with ADHD and its impact on your child’s behavior. At school, the teacher becomes very familiar with your child. Behavior modification and accommodations are often second nature to a teacher experienced in working with ADHD students. These factors are not as likely to be in place during vacation activities supervised by an outside adult.
•  Family vacations are popular. Would the medication help provide support to your child during these vacations? Would your child and your family’s time together be enhanced?
•   Vacation days are typically looser and less structured as compared to school days. Children with ADHD succeed best with predictability and routines. ADHD symptoms are easier to manage within this structure. If you know that days will be somewhat looser, you may want to consider continuing your child on medication to give him additional help in managing the ADHD.

Dr. Hallowell says, “above all else, the most important question to ask is:  What would be best for my child? What would make this vacation the most positive and enriching time for my child? “Always consult with your child’s doctor before making any changes related to your child’s medication.Edward Hallowell, M.D., Ed.D. (Honorary), is a child and adult psychiatrist and a leading authority in the field of ADHD. He is a NY Times bestselling author and a highly recognized public figure, appearing on numerous national television programs including Oprah, Dr. Oz, 20/20, Dr. Phil, 60 Minutes, and CNN. As an authority on a wide range of topics, Dr. Hallowell has been interviewed for numerous publications including The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Time Magazine, U.S. News and World Report and provides informative and research driven talks that are tailored to almost any audience.

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