5 Tips to Keep Your Child from Falling Behind over the Summer
It is usually a given; children fall behind in what they learned the previous school year over the summer months. For a typical child, this means a few weeks of review once school starts back up and they are good to go. For a child with special needs however, the months and months of hard work it took to master one skill are suddenly forgotten over the summer. Sometimes it could take the same amount of time or longer to get that skill back.
As an Occupational Therapy Assistant in the public school system, this was a real concern for me. Special needs kids typically don’t just bounce back with some review at the beginning of a school year. It takes a lot of hard work and patience to sometimes start from the beginning again!
So what are some ways as parents that you can combat this loss of skills over the summer? Below I am sharing some tips that you can do over the summer to help decrease the loss of skills in your child!
Tip 1: Talk to your child’s special education team! Typically I would only see parents once or twice a year, usually at their child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) team meeting. You can either use that time, or plan to meet with them before the end of the school year. Ask questions! Be intentional! “What is my child doing currently?” “What kind of tools are working?” “What can I do to help with this at home?” These are all great questions to start with! The people on your child’s IEP team will be glad to answer these and give suggestions and ideas to work on at home!
Tip 2: See if your child qualifies for extended school year services! This can be determined at your child’s IEP meeting, or at a separate meeting towards the end of the school year, depending on what your school district does. If your child shows a significant regression over the summer, which the team can determine by testing at the beginning of each school year, they may qualify for this service. Where I worked, it typically began up to a month before school would begin and gives the child a head start on the school year. They typically meet once or twice a week and would either meet at the school or go to the child’s home.
Tip 3: Get a summer home therapy activity packet from your child’s therapist! I gave these out to each of the children on my caseload at the end of each school year. However, if your therapist doesn’t, ask them! Therapists typically have a wealth of handouts, resources, or website ideas that your child can easily do over the summer to keep up with their skills! The second part of this tip would be to actually complete the packets each summer! I’m sure most of my kids did not do anything I provided in the packets over the summer. Be proactive about your child’s education and work on their skills over the summer, even if it is just 15 minutes a day, or a few times week. Something is better than nothing!
Tip 4: Do private therapy services over the summer! Many children in the special education system do get outside therapy services on top of their school services. If your child does not, and you are able to afford it or get your insurance to cover it, please take advantage of this! Also be sure to allow the outside therapist to contact your child’s school therapist so they can be on the same page and be following the same plan with your child! The worst thing that can happen is that your child receives the same services but in a different way that confuses them. This will only hurt their progress.
Tip 5: Be involved!! This goes without saying I hope in your child’s case. Obviously if you are reading this article then you want to be involved in your child’s education. Too many parents though are not and leave it to the professionals. PLEASE, do not do this! You know your child better than any professional they work with. Stay involved and be part of your child’s success!
About Heather G
Heather G. is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant with 7 years of experience in long term care and pediatric/school based therapy. She recently became a stay at home mom, but enjoys sharing tips and activity ideas on her blog goldenreflectionsblog.com!