If your child has an IEP, it may or may not cover summer. Some students get extended school year services built into their IEPs, but many don’t. If your child isn’t attending a summer learning program, you may worry about how he or she will keep up while school’s out. But you can help reinforce your child’s IEP goals, even if he or she doesn’t have school services in the summer.
Identify Summer-Friendly Goals
Start by re-reading your child’s IEP plan. It’s the first place to turn when you’re trying to create a summer plan. Not all goals are things you can work on at home, however.
When your child’s IEP team creates goals, its focus is on skills to help your child succeed in school. So some goals are designed to be worked on at school.
For example, your child’s IEP may say, “Olivia will increase reading accuracy and fluency to a fourth-grade level. To do this, she’ll use a research-based reading program.” In that case, the goal is tied to a specialized reading program. You’re probably not trained to use that program. But there may be more general goals you can tackle, such as decoding words or learning how to use fractions.
Your child may have goals that aren’t strictly academic, too. She may be working on social-emotional skills or functional goals. For example, one of her goals might be, “Olivia will identify and manage feelings (anxiety, stress) on a daily basis.”
That’s something you can help her with at home. If your child has a behavior intervention plan, there’s even a description of how the teachers worked with her at school on this goal. You can use the same approach.
Break IEP Goals Down Into Skills You Can Work On
Looking over your child’s IEP can help remind you of the bigger goals she’s working toward. But goals span a whole year and aren’t met all at once. In many cases, it may make sense to focus over the summer on specific steps toward those goals.
Think of each goal as sitting at the top of a ladder. There are many rungs your child has to climb to get there. Each rung is a skill she needs to learn to get to the next one. For example, before she can write a sentence using two different meanings of a word, she has to be able identify the different definitions.
Sometimes an IEP plan breaks goals into smaller steps or skills already. If your child’s plan doesn’t, check her progress report or ask her teacher to help you list the skills that make up each goal.
Plan Your Summer Program
As you start getting ready for summer, make sure you get the support you and your child need. Here are some guidelines.
- Meet with your child’s teacher and service providers. A few weeks before the end of the school year, talk to your child’s IEP team. The people on it can help you get a sense of her current skill level and which skills are most important to work on over the summer. You can also ask for activity suggestions, book lists and even work to take home over the summer.
- Share goals with summer programs. If your child will be attending camp or summer school, take time to meet with the director before the program begins. Share the goals you’re working on. Ask what opportunities your child might have to practice those skills in her program. The more people who are working to reinforce learning, the more likely your child is to maintain her skills.
- Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Trying to tackle too much can be counterproductive. Make a list of the top things you want to work on over the summer. And be specific. For example: “Olivia and I will read three books from her summer reading list and work on fractions for 20 minutes every day.”
- Find creative ways to work on skills. You can support your child’s learning in all sorts of ways. Take a field trip to a local science museum. Help her practice fractions and measurement while you cook together. You can even work on social skills and money management by having her order and pay at a restaurant.
In addition to working on her IEP goals, don’t forget the real-life learning opportunities your child has during her summer vacation. It’s a good time to work on making friends and to explore her passions and strengths. But remember to build in some downtime, too!
Reinforcing Your Child’s IEP Goals Over the Summer, Understood.org, Amanda Morin. Understood.org is an excellent resource on attention and learning issues.