For many children and parents, summertime provides a welcome respite from the stressors of the school year. With freedom from homework, bedtime battles, and morning meltdowns, families have time to slow down, kick back, and enjoy some much-needed R&R. But summertime also offers opportunities to practice social-emotional, physical and recreational skills that can make the coming school year less stressful and more successful. Here are some tips for helping your child make the most of the summer months.
Avoid summer slide
A literature review conducted by David M. Quinn and Morgan Polikoff of the Brookings Institution in 2017 concluded that “on average, students’ achievement scores declined over summer vacation by one month’s worth of school-year learning…” Fortunately, it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to ensure that your student doesn’t regress. According to Scholastic.com, “Research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing.” You can also encourage a love of reading by reading aloud to children of all ages.
Discover new hobbies
Exploring interests and trying new things is worthwhile for all people, but for children with disabilities, who may face limitations of one sort or another, finding their unique talents and passions may be even more vital. Summer is a great time to try activities such as adaptive sports, music, art, drama, science or coding. Camps and community-based classes offer an ever-expanding smorgasbord of offerings.
The summer season offers children a variety of social situations that aren’t always available during the school year. Camps, whether for children with special needs or for children of differing abilities, can be wonderful settings for making new friends and practicing social skills in a safe and nurturing environment. Likewise, the unstructured play that happens outdoors in the neighborhood, at the pool or in the playground can all be good places to forge friendships.
For example, says Shonna Tuck, writing for the Friendship Circle: “Parks provide primarily sensory (sand, water, etc.) and physical play that developmentally tends to be easier for young children struggling to connect and play with other kids.” You can help your child get started by initiating a game that will attract other children, says Tuck.
If your child has difficulty in social situations, summer is the perfect time to help her improve her interpersonal skills. A fun way for your child to practice these skills is by engaging a “peer mentor,” says Tuck. “…Older children tend to be able to fill in the social gaps of younger kids and provide additional social practice for your child.”
Learn vocational skills
For teens and young adults with special needs, summertime offers a range of vocational training opportunities. For example, “The Workforce Recruitment Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor connects federal and private sector employers across the country with college students and recent graduates with disabilities seeking summer and/or permanent jobs. Teens and young adults with special needs in Los Angeles can benefit from programs such as The Help Group’s Summer Vocational Training Program. The program offers individual and group activities that expose them to “real world work experience.” There’s a good chance that a program such as this one exists in your neck of the woods.
Enjoy family activities
During the school year, it can be hard to find time for family bonding. Summer vacations, day trips, and recreational activities offer precious opportunities for fun, learning, and strengthening relationships between parents, children and siblings. As Tuck points out, “Children build the strength and resilience they need knowing that they have a place at home and people at home who just ‘get them’ and love them for themselves.”