It’s that time of year when kids start thinking about their summer break. Some educators call summer “the big eraser” as students forget so much of what they have learned during the school year. For students with special needs, summer learning loss can mean a real set-back. Holly Zipperer is director of summer programs at Valley Forge Educational Services. She says children with special needs can lose hard-earned academic skills over the summer, along with social and behavioral gains they have made, and should be enrolled in summer programs that support their specific needs.
“It’s critical for them to receive a balance of the academic piece which will maintain those skills,” Zipperer said, ” but to also honor the fact that they also need to maintain social and behavioral skills as well.”
Zipperer says continuing a routine and having to interact with other students is very important to children with special needs. About 400 students enroll each summer in her organization’s programs that combine traditional classroom learning with summer fun such as horse back riding.
Josh Kershenbaum is a Pennsylvania lawyer who specializes in special education. He says many special-needs students qualify for extended school year services, but parents have to be aware of their kids’ rights.
“What they are entitled to is based on their needs, not on what the school district thinks they can offer to kids over the summer,” said Kershenbaum. “The second thing is that the students’ eligibility for extended school year services is not automatic, you have to make the case that your child meets the criteria.”
Kershenbaum says parents need to have a conversation with the school district early on to ensure a summer placement that works for their child
Kershenbaum recently wrote an article about extended school year services.