The school year is almost over, and parents are thinking about summer camp, family vacations, lazy weekends—and freedom from homework, tests and projects!
Not so fast. Summer is 10 weeks- 20 % of the whole school year. Even during an average school day, teachers don’t have enough instructional time to ensure mastery or boost skills for many students. So, do you need to worry about your child’s academic skills over the summer? Will your child regress?
After many years of working with children, my professional opinion is that a child without any learning difficulties, who is working at grade level, and who doesn’t practice any school-related skills over the summer, will most likely manage to stay at grade level. A recent article () is less encouraging, noting that average learners lose at least a month of learning over the summer.
A child who is working below grade level, for whatever reason, and who does no practice, will lose even more skills over a 10-week summer break. Which means this child will start school in September at an even lower level than they were in June.
Obviously, no parent wants his or her child to lose ground. Parents want their children to have more skills, not fewer. Even though you might want a break, you also want to know what you can do to help.
- Hopefully, this issue has been addressed in your child’s current IEP. When you met with the Team, you discussed summer services. You said specifically that you were worried about regression. In Grid C, summer services are listed.
- Using the IEP, identify the top 2 or 3 goals and objectives for your child.
- Talk with the Team about how these skills can be worked on over the summer
- For a child with significant special needs, the school’s basic “summer school” is not likely to be a good fit with his needs
- If your child receives an individual service- a reading tutorial, speech therapy, counseling, a math tutorial, a paraprofessional in the class- this service should continue in the summer. With a big enough need, this paraprofessional may attend summer services or camp with your child, for example.
- If your child receives services in a small group, this should also continue. I’m talking about direct, specialized instruction, not a vague “review” of curriculum
- You may have to advocate for more specialized instruction for your child, focusing on those 2 or 3 most important objectives
- If there are no summer services in the IEP, you may be in a bit of a pickle for this summer. You can meet with the Team chair and ask for this, but legally they don’t have to agree. As soon as possible, get this included in the IEP.
- You may decide to schedule an independent or comprehensive evaluation over the summer. This will document your child’s skill levels in academic areas, social or emotional maturity, speech or fine motor skills. The results will help you measure progress over the summer, readiness for instruction in the fall, and can help ensure that summer services are added to your child’s IEP
Next time, we will discuss how parents can help their children make progress over the summer months—even if their children are not receiving appropriate summer services. Parents are the experts, the best advocates—and often the best teachers as well. Get whatever services the school agrees to put in place, and I will help you decide how best to “make up the difference” to support your child’s learning.
Good luck, and Happy Summer!