During the summer, it’s a frequent occurrence for children to exhibit a decline in their academic abilities. Extensive research has indicated that this decline, often referred to as the “summer slide,” is a widespread phenomenon among most children. This decline can be attributed to the absence of educational engagement and the disruption of familiar classroom schedules. Notably, children with conditions like autism spectrum disorder tend to encounter a more pronounced regression compared to their peers without disabilities. Alongside the decline in academic proficiency, these children also commonly experience setbacks in the behavioral and social skills they had progressed in throughout the school year.
The U.S. Department of Education reports that, on average, children will lose 25% of their reading abilities during the summer. This skill regression is sometimes not regained during the next school year. Sometimes, over time, kids end up being far behind the expected level for their age or grade level. More specifically, students who tend to lose reading skills during the summer can end up being two years behind when they are in the sixth grade.
Researchers reiterate the importance of actively and intentionally using the brain in order to maintain skills. The brain is a muscle that needs to be exercised. And specific skills are associated with specific parts of the brain which contain neuronal connections that help a person function.
Strategies for Preventing the Summer Slide
Let's discuss some strategies for building school readiness and preventing regression of skills during the summer.
Extended School Year (ESY)
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was created in 1990. This law is intended to help students with disabilities to receive a public education that is individualized to their needs. Typically, this involves the development of an Individual Education Plan (IEP). An IEP is created to help identify the individual student’s specific educational needs, goals, and essential support services. In addition to creating an individualized education plan, an IEP can specify whether educational services should be implemented for 12 months (which is considered an extended school year) or only through the typical 10-month school year.
Tutoring & Lessons
It can also be helpful to have your child participate in tutoring or specific educational lessons during the summertime. This can help them to maintain the skills they have learned during the school break, and it can also help them keep up with their peers by giving them a head start on the next school year. By practicing educational activities and using the part of the brain related to academics and learning, you can help prevent regression in your child over the summer when it comes to educational skills.
You can also help prevent regression in behavioral skills and social skills by giving your child opportunities that will give them the chance to practice these skills. Focus on skills that are important for your child's development and functioning. For example, if your child struggles with attention and focus and completing tasks, you can work on this with your child over the summer so that they can continue to maintain and improve in this area.
You could also consider enrolling your child in a summer camp. Some children might benefit from overnight camps, but there are numerous options for day camps as well. These camps involve your child spending either the entire day or multiple days within a group camp environment, centered around a particular theme or activity. Summer camps can be a great opportunity to help support your child's academic skills, social skills, behavioral skills, and ability to follow routines and comply with expectations. Summer camps can also continue to help support your child's development and functioning because it gives them more experiences to continue expanding their abilities.
Summer camps might also be a very exciting opportunity for your child if you can find one that is focused on your child's special interest. For example, your child might be interested in nature or frogs, or superheroes. You might be able to find a summer camp that is themed with one of these topics, meaning that your child gets to spend lots of time doing activities related to the thing they enjoy most.
You might have your child participate in reading programs at the local library. This can greatly help reduce the regression of skills related to reading and general learning abilities and related behaviors. Reading programs keep the brain active and expand language and comprehension skills. Some libraries offer programs with rewards and incentives. Some libraries have lists of recommended reading materials by age or grade level or you may need to base it on your child's current reading abilities.
If you choose not to visit the library with your child or opt out of participating in a structured program designed to advance their reading abilities and counteract summer regression associated with the seasonal decline in skills, then it’s worth considering the simple approach of encouraging your child to engage in regular reading. They can read anything that is of interest to them. Reading is a great way to support academic skills and improve skills across multiple areas of education.
Natural Learning Opportunities
Find natural learning opportunities to support your child's development. There are numerous ways to aid your child’s learning and skill development within their daily experiences. Embracing these chances can significantly elevate their abilities. Encouraging your child’s exploration and growth through natural learning can involve tasks such as grocery shopping, where they count the apples needed or learning about money and making purchases at the store. You can also ask them for their assistance in assigning household chores or by encouraging positive interactions with peers at the nearby park.
There are many ways to help prevent your child from losing skills over the summer. We have provided just some ideas. If you'd like more guidance, contact Behavioral Innovations.
DeVault, N. (2019). Smart Ways to Keep Kids with Disabilities Off the “Summer Slide” Retrieved from: