Saturday, June 27, 2015

Summer Break and Learning Problems

Since June is rapidly winding down I would like to once again encourage parents to help your child keep their academic skills during the summer. Yes, I have written about Summer Loss but if your child is dyslexic or has dyscalculia it is so much easier for skills to evaporate during the summer. This is especially true if the skill isn't solid, in other words, a child with dyslexia who knows how to read maintains that skill better than a child who began the summer just starting to read.

Two and a half months off with no reading (or basic math for the child with dyscalculia) often puts a child back to having to relearn skills that she already has learned with difficulty. Think about the class your child goes back to at the end of summer. Usually her classmates consist of the following:
  • Children who find school easy, mastered reading and math, and either improved during the summer or maintained their high skills which had been thoroughly learned.
  • Children who had easily mastered the skills, perhaps forgot a bit during the summer, but with a quick review in the fall readily catch up to where they were when school ended.
  • The children who did not quite master the skills but have no learning problems. A fall review is all they need to thoroughly learn the skill.
  • And finally children, who due to learning problems, are having difficulty learning the skill. They appear to be beginning to understand how to read or do basic math, but it was a struggle. Too often these children experience major loss of these skills with the summer break. They go back to a skill level of six to eight months ago. Once again, they have to struggle to relearn a skill that already took an immense amount of effort to learn before. The older they are the more  aware are they that what is difficult for them appears easy for their peers. They start each school year academically far behind their friends and the loss becomes cumulative.
As a teacher I was always saddened to see how much ground some students lost during the summer. Talking to their past teachers I found that the students often had improved during past years after a difficult start but seldom caught up with their classmates. This was a private school and these students always "forgot" to do their summer reading or math practice. Since this was an expensive school these students were generally upper middle or upper class. Despite intense remediation, some of these children were still attempting to learn to read in the 4th, 5th and even 6th grade. Many of them had given up by middle school. 

So if you have a child with LDs between the ages of 7 to 10 and that child has difficulty learning to read or do basic math, don't waste those summer months. Make time to do some Read Alouds. Do some alphabet activities. Start a family vacation journal. Spend 10 minutes a day three times a week on math facts.  Don't get frantic about being a teacher to your child,  but use the lazy summer days as a way for your child to relax and enjoy learning. Your child may only remember vacations and days at the pool, but these small moments of summer academics hopefully will make future memories of school more pleasant.

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