For those parents who have a child with dyslexia, summers can often look very different for them when compared to other children. Unfortunately, if a child with dyslexia does not work steadily all summer on their reading and writing skills, then regression occurs. Furthermore, upon returning to school in the fall, testing will show that they would be at least three or more months behind where they had been in the spring. This means that the first part of their new grade would be spent recouping skills they had already learned the previous year – and lost.
Research tells us that children with language-based and other learning differences need constant reinforcement to maintain their skills, otherwise they encounter the “summer slide.” What choices do you have to manage your own child’s summer and why should it really matter?
In 2010, The Annie E. Casey Foundation published research that revealed stunning results. A longitudinal study of 4,000 children found that students who were not reading on grade level by the end of third grade were four times more likely to drop out of school than proficient readers. For those children who struggled the most, the likelihood jumps to six times. The study also revealed that students who weren’t on grade level by the end of third grade were more likely never to catch up to their peers. As parents, our job is to find a program that works to prevent this from happening.
When considering what is best for your child’s summer programming, begin with looking at the “fit.” Do you want your child to just maintain reading or writing or math skills? Do you want them to increase their skill level? This will help you to identify what programs are available that will address their needs best.
When it comes to maintaining skills, you might consider a tutor for two hours or more a week. Oftentimes, your child’s teacher will be happy to make recommendations to the tutor of what needs to be practiced and maintained during the summer.
Your child’s school might even offer a summer program to do this. However, look closely at the curricula. Make sure that the materials and approaches are different from what has been done during the school year. If it didn’t work during then, it is not going to work over the summer either. You do not want to have your child doing the same old things that were unsuccessful for them while in school. It only creates greater frustration.
If your child is behind in reading, writing, or math, you might want to consider an intensive program that offers from 60 to 90 hours of targeted reading, writing or math instruction. This will provide the threshold of skill-building necessary to not only maintain, but to improve and strengthen a child’s ability.
A suitable reading program would include several components. Fluency building is key and can be accomplished using programs such as Read Naturally or Great Leaps. Phonemic awareness can be built and strengthened through a structured, systematic and multisensory curriculum such as Orton-Gillingham or Wilson reading programs. Lexia Reading is an online, web-based software that offers practice and reinforcement of the skills your child is learning through Orton-Gillingham and Wilson. The program should also include daily opportunities for written expression that incorporate encoding, new vocabulary, and the conventions of writing. Pre and post testing will provide important data to your child’s new teacher.
If your child needs to have an intensive program for math, consider one that offers the opportunity to examine and incorporate essential math skills needed to take on math in the upcoming school year. Over the course of several weeks, the summer classes for younger children should explain and reinforce the concepts of basic operations, problem solving, time, money, and geometry to mention a few.
Math camp for older children should offer a review, for example, in operations, problem solving, graphing and measurement, decimals, fractions, area, perimeter and volume. The teacher should utilize informal diagnostic tools and give weekly assessments to gage individual progress. The use of programs such as Symphony Math, an online, web-based software, could provide students with extra practice.
Luckily, there are many choices for children to practice, hone and improve their academic understanding and learning during the summer. With the right mix of services, parents should be able to avoid the “Summer Slide” so that their children begin the new school year with confidence and the knowledge that they are ready to pick up from where they left off in June.