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When summer arrives, many parents with special needs children use a variety of fun activities and educational instruction to provide a well-balanced experience for their students. Although summer brings visions of the beach, vacations, and lazy days at the park, it is important to keep your child’s mind busy to prevent them from falling behind or struggling with new materials.
This decline is known as “summer learning loss.” It refers to the loss of academic, social, and behavioral skills that your special needs child gained over the past year. Studies show that children who don’t keep their brain active can lose up to two months of educational achievement. This could become more severe with a child who struggles with various learning disabilities. The good news is that it is preventable!
Take a look at your daily activities that take place during the summer. You may go shopping, barbecue, make fresh fruit salad, go to the park, and more. Now look at these activities as learning opportunities. Teach your special needs children about creating a food list. Show them the fruits and vegetables at the store. If they have a favorite meal, you can show them its components at the supermarket as you buy them.
You can also teach them about money management. For example, you have $60 to spend at the supermarket. How can they manage that budget? This combines math skills with everyday life activities. While you’re at the beach, collect different shells and categorize them according to shapes or colors. Count the shells in each pile. Real-life learning skills are all around you. The opportunities are nearly endless, so take advantage.
Don’t just assume that your child wants to go to the park. Ask them about their dream summer plans and make a list. Check off the ones that are realistic and go for it! Maybe your child likes fishing. There are many fishing guides who offer special trips for special needs children. They’ll also teach them about the underwater environment, which incorporates science.
If your child has an interest in animals, take them to the local zoo or find a local farm or petting zoo that will provide a more intense sensory experience. Talk about the animals’ coat textures, smells, and sounds the animals make. Other activities include:
- Museum tours
- Planetarium visits
- Water park excursions
- Tent building and camping
- Selling lemonade at a stand
- Craft building
- Reading time together
All these activities combine education with fun activities., and they just scratch the surface. Your town may have a botanical garden or cool farmers market. Use your imagination and don’t forget to include your child in on the planning. It not only empowers them, but also carves out his or her individuality and builds decision-making skills.
Social Skill Building
Building social skills during the summer will help your child enhance his or her communication powers once the regular school year starts. After all, communication is an important and integral skill to learn. Activities include:
- Storytelling: Have your child relate a story about something that brought joy to them
- Play follow the leader: Do what your child does and then switch turns
- Sing and dance: Put on some music, dance, and sing with your child
- Facial expression games: Make sad faces or happy faces and have your child do the same
- Make new friends: Create playdates or bring your child to a reading group. Keep your child’s interests in mind and find social groups that focus on them
Building social skills is harder for some children, so take your time and find the places, activities, and events that they feel most comfortable around. Once they become acclimated, they may open up, make new friends, and discover new skills!
Web-based Learning Tools
There are many web-based learning tools created with special needs children in mind. They allow your children to interact with the lessons, creating a more exciting educational experience. These tools help parents, too. Online learning tools offer automatic grading systems, activity scheduling, progress tracking, and creation of reports for homeschool portfolio usage.
When looking for the ideal curriculum for your special needs child, make sure the program:
- Progresses at the student’s personal pace
- Builds on current reading, writing, and math skills
- Inspires your child to become an enthusiastic learner through exploration and discovery
- Initiates new learning opportunities in a safe, supportive environment
- Combines the educational experience with fun
Many web-based tools offer curriculum for the regular school year, summer skill building, tutoring, after school learning, and learning on the go. So, if you plan on traveling this summer, you can still keep your child’s mind sharp. You can easily bring a laptop or tablet on the road with you and use a web-based learning tool anywhere, anytime.
Don’t let your child suffer from “summer learning loss.” It not only impedes future learning efforts, but also hurts confidence. Keep them learning with these ideas, and have fun doing them together. Enjoy your summer!