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Tuesday 3 May 2016

Help Your Students Avoid the Sumer Slide

It's hard to believe that the school year is almost over!  Here in Ontario, we have two months left, but I know some of you only have a few weeks.  Summer can be bittersweet for some of our students.  While they get to relax, play, and spend more time with their families, they are also out of their normal routines and may not be engaged in activities as they are when they are in school.  This lack of engagement and routine can result in what's called the "Summer Slide".

Research has shown that elementary students' performance falls by about a month during the summer, but the decline is far worse for students with complex learning needs. Most disturbing, it appears that summer learning loss is cumulative and that, over time, these periods of differential learning rates  contribute substantially to the achievement gap.  As teachers, we may think that there is little we can do to  assist students with complex learning needs in maintaining the skills they have mastered during the school year and avoid regression during the summer months.  If we work with our students' parents, however, we may assist them with putting things into place to avoid regression of skills.

5 Things To Do To Avoid the Summer Slide

1.  Meet with Parents

The first and most important thing to do is meet with your students' parents.  Ideally, this meeting should occur two months before the end of school so that they have enough time to think about the summer months and start planning for their child.  During this meeting find out what their summer plans are and discuss the importance of keeping their child engaged in meaningful activities to avoid regression of skills.  Also be prepared to provide suggestions of what the parents can do to help their child maintain critical skills that their child has learned during the school year.

2.  Research Summer Programs/Camps

Before, or after meeting with your students' parents, do some research on your own about what programs or camps are offered in your area.  This won't require a lot of time, perhaps just looking on some websites of local service providers or making a few phone calls.  If you have consultants or therapists that work for an outside agency serve the students in your classroom, you may just be able to ask them if they know of anything camps/programs that are being offered.  If you live in a small community, like I do, there might not be a lot of options.  But, good places to contact are your local Community Living agency, your local chapter of Autism Ontario, (or equivalent in the States), the Children's Treatment Centre in your area, or your municipality.  

In the city of Chatham, where I live, there are a series of camps offered through the Special Populations program.  To find out they are offering this summer, click here.

3.  Invite Respite Workers to Observe in the Classroom

If the student's parents indicate that they have a respite worker for the summer who will be providing programming and recreational activities, extend them an invitation to come and observe the student in your classroom.  This observation will allow the respite worker to learn about some of the skills that the student is being taught and how they are being taught.  This will assist the respite worker in being consistent over the summer and will hopefully motivate them to maintain these skills and perhaps even teach new ones.

4.  Connect Parents with Respite Workers

If the parents do not currently have a respite worker, encourage them to hire one, at least for the summer.  In Ontario, there is funding provided for this through Community Living and Autism Ontario.  Autism Ontario offers funding for a one-to-one support worker to assist children with accessing camp programs or other programming options.  You can find out more about this funding by clicking here.

When families do not use respite workers, it's often because they feel they don't need the assistance or they don't know how to access this service, or don't know anyone they could hire.  In my school district, Educational Assistants are only hired for 10 months out of the year and are usually looking for summer work.  Most of the EAs and teachers on my supply lists are also looking of summer work, so I am usually able to provide parents with a list of possible workers for their child.

5.  Send Home A Summer Teaching Packet

The last thing we can do as teachers to help our students
avoid the summer slide is to send home teaching materials.  I know it's extra prep for us and our EAs, but sometimes this makes a big difference for our students.  Depending on the student's needs, these materials can include math and literacy activities, a list of websites or apps, play or independent work tasks, or visual supports, such as dressing or grooming schedules.  Every year, when I clean out my classroom, instead of throwing things away or donating them to Goodwill, I will set some aside for my students so I can send them home with them.  This is especially important for low-income families who don't have a lot of toys or books for their children.  

Do you do anything to help your students avoid the summer slide?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!  And don't forget to check out the rest of this month's posts from the We Teach Sped Bloggers!

Thanks for stopping by!

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