For those parents who are not familiar with the term ‘summer slide’, nope, it’s not a fun piece of playground equipment. It means the setback in the summer when our children with special needs do not get the consistent therapy and training they are used to getting during the school year. Provisioned under IDEA, your child’s public school, at their discretion, decides whether to include a summer extended school year – ESY to their IEP (Individualized Education Plan). It is pretty typical for a funding-constrained school to create a 10-month IEP plan, excluding the summer months.
As you can see, the school is not the best equipped to provide what is best at an individual level for your child. So many children face reading and math delays and may also be at risk for regression and setbacks from solid progress made during the school year. While the teachers, school-based therapists, and the ‘system’ are well-intentioned, no one is as vested in your child as you are.
It has been recommended that parents focus a bit more this summer due to Covid related disruptions in the school year. So here are a few DIY (do it yourself) ideas to take charge as a parent and avoid the summer slide.
Make the outdoors a key part of your summer teaching
Learning is not just for academics and a classroom education. The great outdoors has abundantly diverse teaching and learning opportunities. As we slowly come out of post-pandemic isolation, outdoor learning can be a safe and highly effective avenue for summer learning. Based on where you live, you could sign your kid up for a summer camp program (depending on COVID restrictions, camps may need to be virtual). Here is a great article on how to pick the right summer camp. Take a look at top camps for this year and a curated campsite list for various types of special needs camps.
If you can’t find the right fit, consider going on family summer camps or picnics, even for a day or two. Fresh air, sensory indulgence with nature, teaching moments, sharing stories…..if you can rope in your child’s favorite grandparent or aunt, perfect!
Explore beyond the walls of your local public school
It is not uncommon for parents to have concerns with their child’s IEP. Summer is a perfect time to try new resources or get another opinion. Every day new methods and tools are being discovered in special needs education and therapy. Virtual consultations with professionals (from all over the country) are great ways to explore new opportunities to help your child, above and beyond the capabilities of your local public school. For example, Amanda Lowe and her team offer a novel and brilliant approach to reading and language.
If things went really bad for you this school year you can consult with a special ed champion like Cocues or Galperin to help understand your rights or advocate for your kids. Perhaps you will benefit from talking to an experienced parent like Suzanne who has lived through several special education challenges and knows special ed law inside and out to help you collaborate effectively with your child’s school. If you are ready to take on a homeschooling challenge, Jennifer is an incredibly resourceful parent and homeschooling expert. Summer is a great time for you to be thinking about recalibrating and preparing for the following school year.
Brainstorm ideas with other special needs parents and experts all over the US
Discuss new ideas with parents and seasoned special needs professionals (many of whom are parents themselves) by joining and sharing your thoughts or questions with our autism community or our special needs community. If you prefer more personalized support to create a custom summer plan for your child, you can also work one on one with professionals.
And no, it does not have to be all work and no play. Here are some fabulous ways to have fun with your child and teach some skills!
Slide into summer confidently!
We know that when it comes to finding opportunities for your child, you leave no stone unturned. At Vitalxchange, we want to be the wind beneath your wings, to empower you to give your child every chance they deserve. So take advantage of your Vitalxchange Village this summer, connect with one of our special needs experts or read about various special education topics !
Share your ideas in the comments below, reach out to us if you have ideas to contribute, and have a wonderful summer!