For parents unfamiliar with the term ‘summer slide,’ nope, it’s not fun playground equipment. It means the setback in the summer when our children with disabilities do not get consistent therapy. The training they are used to getting during the school year is discontinued in the summer. Provisioned under IDEA, your child’s public school decides whether to include a summer extended school year – ESY. The ESY is typically added to your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan). It is typical for a funding-constrained school to create a 10-month IEP plan, excluding the summer months.
Consequently, the school is not equipped to provide your child with what is best at an individual level. So many children face reading and math delays. They may also be at risk for regression and setbacks from solid progress made during the school year. Teachers, school-based therapists, and the ‘system’ are well-intentioned. However, no one is as vested in your child as you are.
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 classroom education. The great outdoors has abundantly diverse teaching and learning opportunities. Outdoor learning can be a safe and highly effective avenue for summer learning. You could sign your kid up for a summer camp program based on where you live. Here is a great article on how to pick the right summer camp. Look at the top camps for this year and a curated campsite list for various 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, and 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 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.
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. Jennifer is an incredibly resourceful parent and homeschooling expert if you are ready to take on a homeschooling challenge. Summer is a great time to think about recalibrating and preparing for the following school year.
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!