Every child is unique, and no two families function the same way. Parents should consider which of the ideas below (if any) will help them and their children during the transition from one school year to the next.
1. Talk About the Transition
Transition into summer vacation can be exciting, and anxiety-producing, for many students. Simply talking with your child about their excitement, the end of the school year, and their plans with friends or wants for the summer months can help to greatly reduce any anxiety associated with the change.
Planning a daily schedule and maintaining a routine is key, especially if your child does not attend a structured summer camp or academy. If possible, make plans with your child's friends or other familiar faces to encourage the building and maintaining of social relationships, and use it as an opportunity to experience new things - maybe go to the Bronx Zoo, the Central Park Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, or the Children's Museum of Manhattan. If your child slumps into playing video games or watching television or movies for extended periods of time, the transition back to school can be doubly difficult.
2. Understand Your Child's IEP Goals
Before teachers and specialists are out of the building, make sure you have an understanding of your child's IEP goals and how the summer months may impact them. If you do not, you should consider contacting you child's school - a counselor should be available to walk you through any special considerations, modifications or accommodations that may be pertinent to this time of transition. It is always helpful to have at least one hard copy of your child's information for reference, if needed, during the summer months.
3. Reach Out to Last Year's and Next Year's Teacher(s)
Communication with your child's teacher(s) can help with transitioning from one school year to the next. Reach out to your child's current teacher to discuss what has worked well and how to set your child up for success in the coming academic year. Even a short email can help you to evaluate what techniques and strategies should be maintained in the coming school year to best support your child's academic, social and emotional growth.
It could also be helpful to share your thoughts and concerns with your child's future teacher(s), if you know who they are. If possible, ask if you and your child could meet their new teacher and visit their classroom. This may help your child to feel more comfortable with the transition between grade levels, teachers, and/or schools.
4. Prevent the "Summer Slide"
Studies have shown that children, on average, can lose between between 25%-30% of their school-year learning over the summer months. This is no different for students with special needs. Summer learning loss can be a serious setback for students who may already be struggling.
If participating in an Extended School Year (ESY) program is an option, take advantage of it! If your child has the opportunity to attend a summer camp which addresses his or her special needs, consider signing up. Popular options within New York City are: PreSchool Sensory Summer Camp Program, Tech Kids Unlimited, Camp Green Tree, Theraplay NYC, Big Apple Day Program, Speech Zone, and The Quad Manhattan.
5. Say Thank You
If there was someone who advocated for and helped to support your child in his or her academic, social and emotional growth this year, simply say, “Thank you!” A “thank you” can go a long way, and modeling how to show thanks is a wonderful lesson for your child to learn before school lets out for summer!
6. Take Time for Yourself
Parenting isn’t easy—especially for parents of children with disabilities. It’s important for you to relax and recharge. Find some time this summer to do something for yourself. Meditate, enjoy the outdoors, or try a new hobby. Take care of yourself so that you can best take care of your child!