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How To Avoid The Summer Slide & Activities For Students With Disabilities

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January 02, 2024


Ahhh it’s finally summer. Summertime is a great time to relax and spend time with family and friends. Kids love the lack of schools pressure and hanging out with friends, sleeping in, or just being lazy.

Still, parents and teachers worry about the ‘summer slide’ and all the hard work of the school year going down the drain in a few months. According to the National Summer Learning Association,

Students, on average, lose two months of learning over the summer.

It’s easy to see how that can happen if all kids do is play video games and watch YouTube videos. So, what can you do to help mitigate summer learning loss?

Local Programs to Look For

Your community likely has several resources you and your children can utilize over summer. Many organizations have summer activities for students with disabilities so look for programs that best fit the needs and interests of your children.

Formal Summer Programs: Some children benefit from formal summer camps and programs. Look into what your school district offers. Kids with specific disabilities may qualify for Extended School Year or summer school programs. Local organizations such as the YMCA or Boys & Girls Club offer summer camps. Community organizations, non-profits, local universities and colleges, and private entities also offer similar programs.

Some places provide disability-specific programs (autism focused or sensory-based) where kids can not only learn new skills but meet other children who face some of the same challenges they do. Other programs focus on one skill or content area, so you can choose a program to support the areas your student struggles in. Summer is also a great time to polish social skills! Check with your local organizations to see which use Stanfield’s Social & Life or Job skills programs.

Day Camps: If you don’t want to commit the time and funds to a sleepaway or ongoing camp or program, day and weekend camps are another option. Many places offer learning camps such as nature centers, children’s museums, zoos, museums, community centers, and school districts. Day camps can give your child an intensive learning experience in whatever it is that they need to learn. They can also give children an opportunity to build self-confidence or gain leadership and social skills.

Formal Lessons: If your child struggles in school, extracurricular activities may be a challenge for them to do on top of school during the school year. Summer is an ideal time for them to learn something new. A new instrument, a sport, improv, or art lessons can help support their learning. It gives children a chance to explore something new and find something they can be successful at. Plus, they get the chance to work on important life skills that may take the backseat during the school year.

Home & Community Resources

There are many other ways to prevent the summer slide that you can put into practice at home.

Routine: At home, have a predictable routine. Ideally, routines and schedules are posted with times so that children can reference them. This predictability is helpful for all children, but especially those with ADHD or Autism. For younger kids, times don’t have to be set in stone, but having a visual of what comes next can help with a variety of issues from summer boredom to anxiety. An added benefit is one more way that kids are encouraged to read and even develop math skills (telling time/elapsed time).

Real-Life Learning: Summer is a great time to teach skills that get neglected during the business of the school year. In the summer ‘cleaning boot camp’ takes place at our house each year. We reteach how to do routine chores and teach a few new ones. Kids are required to do a few tasks each day, along with age-appropriate self-care (such as getting dressed, reading for 20 minutes, picking up toys, etc.). With older students, use the First Impressions curriculum to help your kids learn how to achieve a polished, professional look and attitude. During summer, kids have more time to learn other life skills they will need such as budgeting, cooking, or how to use community resources. Teens can volunteer and get experience in fields of their interest or job shadow to prepare for employment.

Library: The library is one of the best places to spend your time in the summer. Most libraries have a variety of programs for kids of all ages. Of course, we all know how valuable reading is over the summer and what better to get kids hooked on reading than to check out some new books at the library? Libraries also usually have a summer reading incentive for kids and teens. There are plenty of options for non-readers too. Libraries, and the internet, have many alternative options like audiobooks and podcasts.

Get Some Exercise: Getting out and being active helps kids learn. Exercise is easy to get in the summer. The opportunities for being active are many. Kids who spend their days swimming, riding bikes, and running around the neighborhood have less of a summer slide than those who spend all their time in front of a screen.

Remember to Enjoy Summer

Summer doesn’t have to be months of wasted learning. The opportunities for continued learning are many! So, take full advantage of what summer has to offer, and in between, kick up your feet and enjoy the sun.

By: Amy Curletto

Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.

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