One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? Avoid Backsliding This Summer

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Did you know that most kids lose two months of grade level equivalency in math and at least one month in reading over the summer? What’s worse is that the loss compounds over the years. So, for example, if a child doesn’t read books regularly during the summer throughout all of elementary school, he or she will lose as much as two years’ worth of achievement by the time he or she reaches middle school!

Decades of research on learning loss over the summer is very convincing. So, while it can be very tempting to back off from academics completely, all kids need to engage in some educational activities during the summer. Kids with ADHD and learning differences need summer academic support the most. By the end of the school year, most kids with ADHD are already at least a few months behind their peers in academic skills - usually because they have struggled to stay focused and complete work at the same pace as their classmates.

Create a summer educational plan for your child now, before summer begins. This way you’ll be ready to start as soon as the school year ends. Taking even a short break from academics when summer starts will make it harder for your child to get back into academic gear. So, as tempting as it may be to take a break, make things easier on yourself and your child by starting your child’s summer education plan right away.

  • Include one or two hours of academic activities in your child’s daily schedule. Summer provides an opportunity for kids to develop all kinds of skills – social, athletic, creative, and academic. So, don’t overload them with academics. But do consistently carve out one or two hours every weekday for educational skills.
  • Work with a learning center. If it is at all feasible, I highly recommend working with a learning center to get your child the academic support that he or she needs. Reputable learning centers, like Huntington Learning Centers, will conduct an academic assessment with your child at the start of their tailored academic program. This is essential, because it allows your child to work on the areas where he or she needs help the most.
  • Avoid control battles. If homework time has been a struggle all year long, then you may dread having this same battle around summer academics. Minimize control battles by setting clear expectations, empathizing with your child about how hard academics can be, and rewarding your child for his or her hard work.
  • Schedule family reading time. Over the summer your child should be reading every day. Make this a habit for your whole family by scheduling 30-minutes of family reading time every day. Turn off the electronics and minimize distractions. Your child will be much more receptive to reading when everyone is doing it together. If it doesn’t seem feasible for parents and kids to read at the same time, then block out 30-minutes each day when all of your kids read together.
  • Make reading fun. Many kids with ADHD would rather eat a giant bowl of broccoli than read a book. Take extra steps to make reading fun. Go to the library and let your child pick out his or her own books. If your child prefers to read books that are below his or her grade level, then compromise. Allow your child to read the easier book on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Make Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays the challenging book days.

Creating an educational plan for your child will not only help avoid backsliding over the summer. It will allow your child to strengthen his or her academic skills and start the new school year off with confidence.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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