For many of us, it’s almost the end of another school year, and anticipation of the summer break has begun. We’ve all had a super busy year, working diligently to help our students move toward mastery of their goals, so the brain rest that comes with the break is much needed.
But before we can blink, the summer break will be over, and August (or September) will usher in a new school year. Once we begin those reviews of skills learned during the previous school year, it is exasperating to find that some of our students have regressed. Regression of skills is a concern for any student, but particularly for those who have more significant speech or language needs. We want all of our students to hold onto skills they’ve learned and not lose them during breaks.
With that in mind, we know that continuous instruction throughout the school year is what’s needed to hinder regression. Speech services during the summer break could be a perfect solution for those students who are at-risk for losing skills. However, I have experienced situations in which students were recommended for extended school year services, but the parent declined them.
Conversely, other students who were slated to receive summer services never (or only occasionally) showed up for their sessions. Parents can’t be forced to accept services or work with their children during the summer, but we should still encourage them to reinforce skills and provide them with activities or practical resources they can use.
Actually, practical activities will work in our favor because we will use things that are readily available. As school-based providers, we are all so busy with paperwork and other responsibilities for closing out the school year, so who has time to copy and assemble packets? Nobody! So, the following are a couple of ideas that may help save some time (and trees!).
1. You know those work samples gathered during the school year?
If you’ve held on to them, send them home as an alternative to those summer packets. The samples will show target skills, and any written annotations will give parents valuable information about their children’s performance. Because the work is already done, reviews and practice should be easy and quick. The materials in speech notebooks will serve similar purposes for review and practice.
2. Have any of your parents asked that you maintain a communication notebook?
This is the type of notebook that contains written summaries of what a child did in therapy. Parents who want this typically expect notes about each session. Communication notebooks are handy journals containing valuable information about skills targeted during sessions and how a student performed, so a parent can easily review the entries to determine skills that should be reinforced, and then incorporate them into daily activities.
In considering “low prep” solutions, these are only two ideas that could work to save providers time from preparing packets to send home for the summer break. But, as with anything, there may be details that have to be tailored to specific needs. Parents come with different levels of confidence and knowledge. Some may feel more comfortable with a packet, so as always, we try to accommodate their needs or expectations as best we can.
Regardless of what our plan for facilitating family participation during the summer break may entail, striving for “working smarter, not harder” is always a good option.
Author: Colleen Houston-Williams, SLP.D, CCC-SLP