How to keep children "busy" and happy during the summer is a dilemma that has faced parents since the demise of the neighborhood sandlot and the ole swimmin' hole. "What are the children going to do this summer" is a question that parents now ask long before summer arrives.
The purpose of this article is to help parents find a program that is suitable for their child. Traditional and nontraditional summer programs are listed to allow a child opportunities for exploration of interests and maybe the development of a hobby during summer vacation.
Some of the programs listed require collaboration between school districts and other government agencies such as city or county parks and recreation departments. The collaboration may be detailed in a formal Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA). A school district may provide a building or multi-purpose room for a summer program, pay the utilities and provide custodial services. The other agency, either city or county, may provide the trained staff and special equipment.
If your school district does not have a summer program, you might be able to start one for next summer by sending a formal request or a petition to your district school board or committee.
Extended School Year (ESY) provides a continuation of special education and/or related services beyond a regular school year if the need is documented in a student's IEP (Individualized Educational Program). Key factors in determining eligibility for ESY are regression and recoupment. Regression is a return to a lower level of functioning in those skills or behaviors on the student's IEP. Recoupment is the amount of time a student needs to regain the knowledge lost over a period of time.
Review your child's IEP for the last few years to determine if reasonable educational progress has been made in the goals and objectives following interruptions in service due to illness, vacations, etc. If you think your child may be eligible for ESY, ask for a review of placement and request ESY services. Some school districts provide ESY services a few weeks following the end of the current school year. Others provide ESY services prior to the beginning of the next school year.
Summer school remedial or enrichment classes are offered by many school districts or community schools. Some of these classes may be appropriate for students with learning disabilities. Tuition or registration fees are usually charged. School-parent groups or educational enrichment foundations frequently allocate money to assist families in paying summer school fees. Some SEAs (State Education Agencies) require students below a certain achievement level to attend summer school.
Private schools or learning centers offering specialized instruction to students with learning disabilities, learning differences or language development deficits are available in many cities. These facilities charge fees for services, sometimes on a sliding scale.
Check online on the Yellow Pages for Kids site (http://www.yellowpagesforkids.com/help/il.htm)
Universities or colleges sometimes have specialized summer classes for elementary or high school students with learning disabilities. The classes for high school students may allow for the earning of college credits while becoming familiar with the college environment and participating in specially structured programs. Check with the Disability Services Office at your local college or university.
Various departments or colleges within a university system may offer specialty camps in astronomy, chemistry, computers, communications, math or science. These may not be targeted for students with learning disabilities, so check with the directors before enrolling.
Libraries have traditionally offered summer reading programs. If your child has a reading or comprehension disability, ask if he/she can participate in the program through taped children's books or if you can read the books to the child.
The need for expanded services and community outreach has increased the scope of programs offered at many libraries: orientation classes for using the library; story hours for children and for families; programs in music, art, history and travel; and specialty classes.
Recreational programs offered by school districts in conjunction with city or county parks and recreation departments are available in many parts of the country. Games, team and individual sports, table games, arts and crafts, dancing, environmental studies and special events make up the usual programs. Many special recreation programs are offered by consortiums of local park and recreation districts. For instance, the Southwest Special Recreation Association (SWSRA) services people who live in Alsip, Blue Island, Merrionette Park, Midlothian, Palos Heights, Posen and Worth. SEASPAR serves people who live in Brookfield, LaGrange Park, Clarendon Hills, Lemont, Darien, Lisle, Downers Grove, Western Springs, Indian Head Park, Westmont, LaGrange and Woodridge.
Specialized day-camps offered by therapeutic recreation units of parks and recreation departments provide recreation programs for students with disabilities. Day camps for children and pre-teens, teen social groups, weekend outings, dances, special events, hiking and swimming classes are routinely offered. There may also be private clubs or facilities that offer summer day experiences.
The day camps are sometimes co-sponsored by school districts through an IGA. Frequently the day-camps are offered at no cost to the parents since municipal or county tax dollars fund the programs.
Many day-care centers offer day-camp experiences for children up to about age 10. Athletic and fitness clubs also offer recreation programs for students, many times with reduced rates for multiple children in a family.
Museums and zoos may have summer programs within their specialty areas. Some art museums offer classes in cartooning, ceramics, drawing, painting, photography and sculpture. Some historical museums help children develop an understanding of the history of their immediate area or state through hands-on lessons.
If you consider a residential camp, it's wise to include the child in the decision. You may want to ask the camp for a local reference so that your child can talk with another camper and you can discuss your concerns with the parent. Factors you may want to consider are: the training of the staff in working with children with learning disabilities, the structure of the program, the opportunity for a child to maintain skills in reading, the dispensing of medication, accessibility of medical treatment, how discipline is handled and staff to camper ratio.
Cooperative "intern" arrangements with friends or understanding neighbors are especially good in more remote areas. Each parent agrees to take the other's child for a particular period of time to teach a skill: cooking, pet grooming, child-care, computers, woodworking, horsemanship, etc. A child might be able to develop several different skills during the summer and have fun too!
Miscellaneous opportunities for recreation and training are available through organized sports programs (Little League); Boys and Girls Clubs; Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts; Camp Fire; the Salvation Army; YMCAs and YWCAs; hospital volunteer activities; computer camps; specialized skills camps such as boating, swimming, archery, tennis, and horseback riding; trail building and maintenance with the U.S. Forest Service; the exploration of interests and hobbies; and, volunteer activities working with younger children or seniors.
Have fun and have a great summer!