Preventing Summer Slide

We all look forward to summer vacation, but what happens when we let our brains take a break from school? Have you ever noticed your child struggling at the beginning of a new school year? It’s easy to forget what you’ve learned when you haven’t been actively using those skills. This is especially true for our friends with Down syndrome and other special needs. To help you, we've put together 9 ways to prevent summer slide.

1. Set Yourself Up For Success.

It’s important to keep up a routine throughout the summer months. Of course, your child won’t have the usual school work load, but you want them to still be engaged in learning. If practicing reading, math problems, or speech becomes a habit, their skills will show great improvement. Hopefully, these activities can also be something your child looks forward to. Ask your child keep a journal each day about all the things that they have learned. Writing is a great way to exercise the mind.


2. Make Reading a Priority

Reading is one of the most common areas of decreased skills from one school year to the next. Set goals with your child by making a list of books they would like to read over the summer. Research has been done on developing reading skills, and it has been shown that six is the magic number when it comes to creating a summer reading list (Scholastic). If you choose six books for your child that aren’t too heavy, but aren’t too light, this can prevent their abilities from slipping. Plan a fun trip to the library and let your child pick out books that spark their excitement!


3. Build a Support Network of Other Parents

Having a solid support group does wonders. Bounce ideas back and forth with other parents and make it a team effort. You can also plan group activities with other families! A great way to meet parents of children with special needs is at a DSAW's Parent's Night Out. They are held regularly across the state. 


4. Find Education Everyday.

Encourage learning in everyday life and motivate your child to practice their skills consistently. On days you don't have anything specific planned, there are still ways to help your child exercise their minds. If you think about it, education can be found in any situation. Even activities such as cooking can help your child learn. Cookbooks involve reading and math! Taking a summer road trip? Listening to an audiobook along the drive can be a fantastic way to incorporate learning.


5. Summer Camps

There are always a number of specialized camps available during the summer months. Camps specifically for children with special needs include:


Lions Camp 

Shepherds College 

Easter Seals Camp 

Badger Camp 

iCan Shine Bike Camp 

Wisconsin Youth Leadership Forum 

DSAW Respite Day Camp 


6. Summer Programs

Your child's school or local public library can be a wonderful resource. They often have summer programs that your child can be apart of. Keep in mind, you can also petition to have Extended School Year Services (ESY) included in your child's IEP. Click here for a guide on ESY. 


7. Recreational Opportunities

Consider looking for recreational activities to keep your child's mind and body active. Physical activity takes a lot more brain power than one might expect. Consider checking out Special Olympics, Miracle League, and more! 


8. Supplemental Therapies

After a full school year of progress in PT, Speech or OT, nothing is more deflating than losing skills due to lack of therapies over the summer. If possible, enroll your child in supplemental summer therapy! DSAW-Fox Cities is offering speech, OT, and behavior therapy this summer, and DSAW-La Crosse is offering access to speech therapy. If summer therapy is cost prohibitive, consider applying for a DSAW Member Grant. We also recommend asking your current therapists for lists of activities that you can be doing over the summer.


9. Don't Forget About Behavior and Social Skills

It may be easier to stay home over the summer, but nothing will improve your child's behavior and social skills like exposure to new people and new experiences! Organize playdates (with typically-abled friends too!), visit new places, and always work on appropriate social behavior. Summer is a great time for experiential learning.



Learning doesn’t have to go on summer vacation, and it definitely doesn’t have to be boring. There are many ways to make practicing educational skills fun for your child!










This blog post sponsored by Cardinal Capital Management