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Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist and founding partner with The Heller Psychology Group LLC, which is a small private practice located in Bethesda, Maryland near Montgomery Mall. He specializes in working with children, adolescents, and their families. Dr. Heller conducts play, individual, and family psychotherapy for a variety... Read more

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Benefits of Using the Summer to Improve Academic Functioning

Dr. Carey Heller: Clinical Psychologist specializing in ADHD/Executive Functioning in Bethesda

“My child didn’t have a great school year. I guess there’s nothing I can do now about it, but hopefully in the fall, with tutoring, executive functioning coaching, or whatever supports are needed, he will do better. Or, maybe I will see if next year is better and seek help then if needed.” These thoughts usually end up putting students at a disadvantage during the next school year.  In most cases, even without school being in session, children and teens can make major improvements in skills related to academic functioning. Furthermore, unless your child or teen’s issues at school this year are situational (i.e., related directly to the school, specific teacher) and changes are going to be made next year, it is unlikely that the issues will resolve themselves on their own.

With it already being May, the current school year is going to come to an end soon. If the school year has gone as well as you had hoped for your children or teens, that is wonderful. However, if it has not, now is a good time to think about how to use the summer to help make things go better next year.

Here are some suggestions/things to think about if the school year has not gone well:

  • Identify why the school year has not gone well.
    – Was this the first year where there were issues? Has there been an unaddressed issue for several years?
  • Did your child or teen’s level of motivation decrease?
  • Did the work simply get harder and your child or teen couldn’t do as well as they had previously?
  • Is your child or teen very bright, but highly disorganized, and having trouble keeping track of assignments contributed to weaker grades?
  • Do you have no idea why your child or teen’s academic functioning took a dip this year?
  • Identify specific supports that you can put in place this summer to improve things going forward.
  • If you have no idea what the issue is, consider seeking out a psychologist who can get more information and help determine if formal testing (i.e., a psychoeducational evaluation) would be helpful in identifying if ADHD, a learning disability, anxiety, or another issue is causing your child or teen’s academic difficulties. Similarly, if you suspect issues with attention or a learning disability, seeking out an evaluation is helpful in better understanding the areas of difficulty, and then using that information to tailor a comprehensive treatment plan. The report also serves as documentation that can be used to assist with getting formal supports at school (i.e., 504 plan, IEP) if needed.
  • When it is clear that issues with attention/executive functioning (i.e., time management, organization, study skills) are the key problem, seek out a therapist, coach, or tutor who specializes in addressing these items. Contrary to popular belief, even without schoolwork in the summer, these skills can be worked on. In some ways, without the pressures of actual schoolwork, it can be easier for children and teens to be motivated to work on attention/executive function skills, especially when it is done in a fun way.
    • In my practice, I do a lot of work with children and teens during the summer months to work on these skills. For example, if I am working with a teen on keeping track of assignments, I will have them use a planner during appointments and write down some assignments that I give them orally while for others, they have to login to a Google Classroom or other online portal to figure out what tasks they have to complete. In addition, to further simulate school, some tasks require them to bring in completed items to appointments whereas other ones are supposed to be submitted electronically by set deadlines. Furthermore, while most tasks are not intended to take a long time, using a child or teen’s interests to help foster motivation to practice skills can also be beneficial. As one example, if I work with a child who loves Minecraft, perhaps as one of the assignments, he or she has to complete a specific room/item in the game by a set time, then write a few sentences describing the thing and post that into a portal.
  • If there are concerns about knowledge or skills in a specific academic domain (i.e., math), consider getting your child or teen a math tutor or enrolling them in an enrichment program. This will help him or her fill any gaps from the current school year or prior, and put them in a position to better learn material with the next school year. Determining if continued tutoring is needed into the new school year would be helpful. Often times, keeping it in place, at least initially, and then reducing it as the next school year goes on could be beneficial.
  • Keep track of information pertaining to issues. In addition, if your child or teen is going to participate in testing, tutoring, or coaching this summer, get these setup now so that the provider can have ample time to speak with your child or teen’s teachers and collect vital information to help guide their work with them this summer. Also consider having an initial appointment for tutoring or coaching while school is still in session so that the provider can get a clear picture of what things look like in the moment with issues at school.
  • While getting support this summer is very important, it is also important not to overschedule or overwhelm your child or teen with obligations. This is true especially for teens if they have very demanding schedules during the school year. Having a break is very important to help reset for the next year. Therefore, balancing academic demands with activities of interest is important.

I hope that these suggestions are helpful in assisting you in helping your child or teen make the most of their summer in preparation for the next school year and beyond.

 

Copyright 2019 Carey Heller, Psy.D.

*Disclaimer: The previous information is intended as general guidance based on my professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship,  and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship*

 

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Carey Heller, Psy.D.

About Carey Heller, Psy.D.

Dr. Carey Heller is a licensed psychologist with The Heller Psychology Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. He works with children, adolescents, and young adults, providing psychological/psychoeducational evaluations and individual psychotherapy. Dr. Heller specializes in ADHD, executive functioning issues, and Autism Spectrum Disorder and is happy to answer questions and provide consultations for individuals who are considering pursuing treatment or an evaluation for their child, adolescent, or themselves. Dr. Heller can be reached directly at 301.385.2610 or careyheller@thehellerpsychologygroup.com. For appointments, please call the office at (301) 385-2610 or email The Heller Psychology Group at appt@thehellerpsychologygroup.com with your contact information and availability for appointment times.

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