Stay Sharp! Promoting Skill Maintenance with Summer Activities


For many children and families, summer is a nice break from the routines and demands of the regular school year.  However, there is evidence that most students experience some loss of skills during this extended vacation, and that some students with disabilities show significant skills regression in the absence of structured, daily instruction.  So while summer is a time for children to relax and play, it can also provide many unique and rich opportunities for learning, skill-building and skills-maintenance.

Before a student’s summer vacation begins, parents and educators should work together to identify areas of potential regression and skills-loss, and to plan activities and interventions that address the student’s individual needs:

For students who are likely to lose important, fundamental math and language arts skills over the summer, plan a weekly, or even daily, routine of academic exercises to address those skills.  These exercises should be relatively short and target both basic and higher-order skills.  For example, a student might reinforce a wide range of math competencies by practicing computation for 10 – 20 minutes and then using those same operations to solve a few related word problems.

  • Help students identify high-interest reading materials for the summer, and set goals to encourage regular reading practice.
  • Give students opportunities to reinforce their writing and composition skills.  Journal writing and weekly reflections are excellent ways to build regular writing practice into a student’s summer routine.  Students can also develop their writing skills by corresponding with friends and family in letters, postcards, and even by email.
  • Students who are likely to experience significant regression may be eligible for Extended School Year (ESY) services.  Check your state’s eligibility criteria and explore ESY options for students who may require more structured support to maintain academic and/or functional skills.

Summer is also a great time to explore a variety of alternative learning and enrichment opportunities.

  • Not all summer camps are the same!  Some camps are specifically designed to meet the needs of students with disabilities, or have supports in place to help those students participate with their non-disabled peers.  Also, some camps and summer programs have a specific focus or theme (sports, computers, writing, theatre, etc.).  Explore the range of options available for the student and consider his/her needs and interests in selecting an appropriate program.
  • Many public institutions, such as libraries, parks and museums, offer various summer programs for children.  Look to these institutions within your community for unique, high-interest enrichment opportunities.

The internet can be a great resource for supporting children in skill-building and independent learning during the summer and throughout the school year.  Some free educational websites offer games and activities for children to use online, and also provide information and ideas to support parents and educators in planning learning activities for children:

PBS Kids

Verizon Education (Formerly Thinkfinity)

In addition, many commercial educational websites host some free sample-versions of activities and games, or provide limited access to their resources with free trial subscriptions.  Try some quick online search using keywords like “educational”, “learning”, “lessons”, “resources”, “activities”, and “games” to find other useful websites.

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