Summer Is a Great Time to Enhance Skill with Little Effort

Deanna Maciocce, OTR/L

The thought of the summer break brings a lot of excitement for all staff members of a school system because it means almost three months off work to partake in some summer fun. Just like students, staff members get excited for the change in routine and some time to have a change in pace. However, this transition brings a large amount of extra work. From last-minute meetings and evaluations to the final progress reports, we hardly have a moment to breathe. Therefore, adding another thing to your plate seems pretty much out of the question. So, when the idea of providing your students with a summer therapeutic program or packet of information comes up, it seems nearly impossible. However, this is a great time and opportunity to provide ideas and suggestions to families that can be carried out during the summer months, when life is a little more laid back. It provides us with the opportunity to emphasize ways to enhance classroom skills though activities that encourage play.

Summer programs and packets play an important part as we send our students on their way for the summer. They do not need to be overly extensive, because families are looking for some downtime, too. But more than not, parents would appreciate and benefit from a little guidance on how to pick and tailor activities for their child’s summer. When putting together these packets, it is important to remember a few key factors.

Keep It Simple: Simplicity comes in a couple of ways. First, keep the information you are providing simple and concise. This will make it easier for parents to first read through it, and then carry it out. In addition, although you may want to provide activities that are super fun, just make sure they are fairly easy to carry out and to have any necessary supplies on hand.

Make It Therapeutic: Letting parents know the benefits that can be gained from the activities you are suggesting can make a big difference. Identifying activities that improve hand strength or coordination and tying it back to their child’s needs can really pay off.

Give Suggestions: This is a great time to identify good summer camps or programs that you think their child may benefit from or enjoy, or that provide the best chance to interact with peers. With all the literature parents receive, it can be overwhelming and frustrating to find the ideal situation for their child, especially because many of them are costly.

In addition, this is a great time to give activity suggestions that are fun for the whole family, such as visiting a playground and making up an obstacle course, or visiting the beach to hunt for beach glass. Giving families a focus for something they may already do helps them enhance skills.

Think Outside the Box: Encourage them to have some of the different kinds of fun that summer gives them the opportunity to experience. For your sensory children, or those working on writing, encourage play in shaving cream outside to work on writing, or a sensory bin walk. Encourage them to get creative and have fun, especially the messy kind that can be outside.

Traditional is Great: Remember that traditional activities such as nature hikes, bike riding, swimming, and playing tag provide many benefits to our children, so it is key to really encourage parents to get their child outside to play!

Summertime is a great time for children to partake in nonstructured activity, so helping families balance this and see the importance of free, creative play away from technology could be the best advice you give for any child! Our role as therapists goes outside the treatment session, so make sure you are a holistic resource for your families and students.