Keep Academic Skills Flowing Over Summer for Your Exceptional Child

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Since my move to North Carolina more than 14 years ago, I have read about, heard about and even debated about whether or not a child with exceptional neurological needs is better off in a year-round or traditional calendar school.

Depending on the direction, I think most people will agree either way that exceptional children who practice any form of academics during their summer break, will have a smoother transition back to school.  

If you like the idea of helping your child stay academically focused but dread having to continue a specific routine or maintain a home-school classroom, here are a few quick ideas to keep the momentum without schoolwork being the center of attention.

Timing is everything  

You need not mark your calendar for a set time and date to read a book or practice math facts, but parents might want to consider at least a weekly study or work session.  Anywhere from one to three hours a week is a good start and can be adjusted based on your child’s abilities or willingness to participate. Keep in mind there will be plenty of options to fill this time such as by visiting a library, playing internet math games or even heading to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.


“Drop Everything and Read.” I’ve had the opportunity to work in a few classrooms where “Dear Time” is practiced daily and for only about 15 minutes per session. From my experience, the students seemed to love the quick reading break. If parents want to play this game at home, they can put the child in charge of saying when it's “Dear Time.”  Parents should remember that if they choose to play, they will need to have something to read on fairly quick basis. This is because parents will need to stop what they are doing and read immediately. While this game may seem scary in that your child will have too much fun at your expense, remember, it’s our game and our rules, right? Decide ahead of time what days will work according to your schedule and then let your child know first thing that morning that it is “Dear Day.” Most certainly, your child will love the added attention and will find plenty of books to read with you.  

For older children, “Dear Time” could be as simple as 10 to 15 minutes of reading after breakfast each morning or even one time per week. It might be easier to accomplish it at the beginning of their day rather than trying to interrupt their day after they are already involved in something else. For teenagers, reading over summer break is tricky, so setting up a specific time might be your only possibility.

Concentrate on the difficult subject first

If time and attitudes tend to be short, practice the subject that is needed the most. For example, if your child excels in math then have him or her skip math practice and do more reading. If your child doesn’t want to do anything but read, then he or she might need to sharpen the math skills. Working on skills your child has mastered might be a thankless effort, especially if time is a precious commodity in your house. Your child’s last report card or evaluation should give parents a good idea which areas to focus on.

Don’t forget about therapy

For different learning levels, parents can continue to support the occupational, speech and physical therapies by practicing various daily household tasks such as emptying the dishwasher, sorting laundry or feeding independently. Learning to put on clothes, especially shoes and socks, is sure to make your child’s teacher smile. Spelling and writing first and last names are always good summer goals.  There are plenty of self-advocacy skills to learn, and a summer break, no matter how long or short, is a great time to practice. 

Anything goes

The point is, do something! Whether your student has three weeks or a whole summer to play, any type of learning will most likely be beneficial to your special child during the summer break.  

Categories: A ‘Special’ World, Special Needs