At a glance
Re-reading your child’s IEP can help you make a summer learning plan.
Not all goals can be worked on at home.
Real-world learning can help reinforce your child’s goals.
If your child has an IEP, it may or may not cover summer. Some kids get extended school year services built into their IEPs, but many don’t. In 2021, some kids will qualify for “compensatory services” if, due to the pandemic, the school was unable to provide the services called for in an IEP. (Check with your district.)
If your child isn’t attending a summer learning program, you may worry about whether keeping up while school’s out will be possible.
You can help your child work toward goals over the summer. Here’s how.
Pinpoint summer-friendly goals.
Start by re-reading your child’s IEP. 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, though.
When your child’s IEP team creates goals, its focus is on skills to help your child thrive 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, like words or learning how to use fractions.
Kids may have goals that aren’t strictly academic, too. They may be working on social-emotional skills or functional goals. For example, a goal might be, “Olivia will identify and manage feelings (anxiety, stress) on a daily basis.”
That’s something you can help kids with at home. If your child has a , there’s even a description of how the teachers worked with your child at school on this goal. You can try to use the same approach.
Break goals down into skills you can work on.
Looking over your child’s IEP can help remind you of the bigger goals. 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 kids have to climb to get there. Each rung is a skill they need to learn to get to the next one. For example, before you can write a sentence using two different meanings of a word, you have to be able to identify the different definitions.
Sometimes an IEP breaks goals into smaller steps or skills already. If your child’s plan doesn’t, check the progress report or ask the teacher to help you list the skills that make up each goal.
Plan your summer program.
As you get 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 with the IEP team. They can help you get a sense of your child’s 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 is going to camp or summer school, 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. The more people who help reinforce learning, the more likely your child is to keep up with skills.
Be realistic. Trying to tackle too much can be counterproductive. Make a list of the top things you want to work on over the summer. 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 practice fractions while you cook together. You can even work on social skills and money management by having your child order and pay at a restaurant.
Don’t forget the real-life learning opportunities your child has during summer vacation, too. It’s a good time to work on making friends and to explore passions and strengths. But don’t forget to build in some downtime, too.
Breaking goals down into smaller skills makes them easier to work on.
Ask the IEP team to suggest activities that support your child’s goals.
Find fun ways to work on skills, like going to museums or cooking together.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.