Updated: Nov 1, 2020
"Ask the Advocate" is our forum to bring you answers to questions that are timely and important to families of students with disabilities. Each month I will ask Lorraine Hightower, Dyslexia Advocate and Consultant, your top questions and bring her answers to YOU!
"It’s summer! Can my kid and I just take a break?"
Absolutely! Just remember that breaks can look different for everyone. The type of break you choose for your family should depend on where your child is with making progress towards their goals. Research shows that students make progress in reading when the intervention is consistent, repetitive and intensive. In fact, to make real progress, a student with dyslexia should meet with a qualified tutor or teacher for structured literacy instruction a minimum of 2 times a week and preferably, four or even five sessions a week depending on their personal deficits.
If your child is in that spot where they are making progress...Congratulations!! That is an exciting time to celebrate! Share the excitement you feel about their progress with your child and make sure that continuing their pace of instruction is not projected as drudgery, but as an exciting opportunity to reach goals and find more success. Attitude is Everything!
At the same time, your child can still take breaks while progressing towards those reading goals. Perhaps your family will choose to take a week off once or twice in the summer. You can build excitement for that week as a celebration of your child’s success and terrific work ethic. You can plan a “staycation” or vacation for that time. Other families may choose for their child to meet with their teacher or tutor one less time per week, allowing an extra “break day” per week. Some families may choose to do all work before noon, thus creating free time for kids every afternoon. Maybe you prioritize your child’s needs and only focus on progress for one main goal, instead of requiring your child to work long hours each day or working towards multiple goals. Everyone needs a break, the key is choosing the right type of break that best fits the needs of your child.
"There is no way I can keep up with the consistent and intensive instruction you recommend over the summer. What else can I do?"
If you know that you cannot be consistent and intensive with reading intervention, there is no need to do it “half way”. That is okay! It is best to recognize that and choose activities that better serve your child. Why waste time and money on a specialized reading teacher or tutor once a week when research shows that this amount of time is not enough to make meaningful progress?
There are plenty of activities that your child can do that will be fun and support reading goals. You may encourage your child to listen to audio books which will also help build their vocabulary. The public library is a great resource for free audio books that can be downloaded right to your child’s device. Another idea is to have your child practice typing. There are plenty of programs out there, but many children like to play TypeRacer (https://play.typeracer.com/). Players practice typing the words on the screen accurately and quickly to win races and compete with others online. Children with dyslexia often require assistive technology devices to access their grade level curriculum so building their typing skills can make a powerful difference for them! Make sure you follow our Facebook page; Melissa will be posting some more of her favorite games and activities that support learning and are perfect for children with dyslexia while still being considered “summer fun.”
"My family has chosen to continue consistent and intensive remediation for my son over the summer with a tutor. How can we document my son’s progress over the summer?"
I love that you are thinking about monitoring your son’s progress during the summer break! Progress monitoring and data gathering is so important to the decision making that will come in the fall. As we like to remind parents, “Data Drives Decisions!” The first recommendation is to introduce your son’s tutor to his school Case Manager or special education team. They may have some personalized recommendations for which goals to prioritize and what kinds of progress monitoring data would be most helpful in the fall.
If you cannot reach your child’s IEP team at this point in the summer, I encourage you to review your son’s current IEP with his tutor to prioritize goals and review the types of progress monitoring measures that were used during the school year. Remember that any progress data that you can bring back to your child’s IEP team will be helpful; everything from audio recordings of your son reading, to performance on pre and post summer lesson activities with their tutor. In fact, some tutors actually utilize assessments that are very similar to what school districts use to determine a child’s decoding, encoding, and overall reading fluency abilities. These quick assessments and fluency checks can be key to ensuring that your child has appropriate (and ambitious!) IEP goals for the next school year.