Students with Disabilities and Summer Regression

The Benefits of Continued Education this Summer

By: Mary Grogan, on May 2023

As the summer break begins to peek its head around the corner, I know everyone is looking forward to a break from rigid schedules and routines.

Summer is a time for fun and excitement, to make new memories and try new activities too. We can all remember the fun and joyous times from childhood and into adulthood too. Summer was the time for every good thing to happen.

Even though summer is a wonderful time of the year, I can’t help but wonder that despite all your exciting plans and ideas, there is one thing you might not have considered when filling up your summer.

I’m going to share some information that I believe will help you feel more confident in your abilities as a parent to overcome any challenge you are facing. In addition, this article will have information that you might or might not be aware of or have not considered when it comes to summertime and your children.

Let’s chat about summer regression.

Summer Regression

If you’ve heard of this before and think you might be bored, please, stick around because I hope I can convey to you the importance of learning something new that you can implement in your family routine, which will become a positive, healthy habit.

If you have not, then you are in the right place; if you are open to putting in a little work over the summer, you will not regret being here with me as we take some time to search and learn how to teach our children how to be successful individuals in this world.

Do I have your attention? Excellent!

Before I dive in, grab your favorite cup of coffee, tea, or beverage of choice, find a comfortable seat, and let’s begin this journey together.

School’s Out!

As you prepare for the end of the school year, you begin to hear your friends talk about summer school or tutoring because they do not want their child(ren) to lose skills they learned over the school year.

The term regression gets thrown around, and you start to wonder. “What is it, and how important is it for my children to continue studies this summer?”

What is Summer Regression, and is it harmful?

If you are unfamiliar with the term summer regression or just regression in general, let’s talk about that for a moment.

Regression is when someone is not able to retain information in their memory for an extended period (i.e., Christmas break, spring break, holidays, summer break) and begins to lose the skills/ability and knowledge once learned to master a skill.

Academic regression causes an individual to struggle with recalling steps or information once learned. It can cause the individual to fall behind and must relearn skills and tools learned during the school year, only to find that those skills begin to fade upon returning from break.

I know… it sounds exhausting and frustrating for anyone who may experience regression.

In the grand scheme of things, academic regression is a real problem among many children with learning disabilities. Why? So often, children with learning disabilities are not able to retain information over a long period, and it is one of the reasons they receive special education services (individualized instruction through their IEP) or additional support (related services) during the school year.

Yes, I know, that means you still must be “on” for your child because they might need your help. You might even be thinking how you will never get that desired break you’ve been contemplating for weeks.

But think of it this way, the intensity of continued learning over the summer does not have to be as rigorous as when your child is in school. A few hours a week or even daily practice for 15 minutes is sometimes all your child needs to keep those skills he has learned at the forefront of their mind.

Considering Summer Academics to Combat Regression

What do I do to help my child?

So, now that you know a little more about regression, you’re probably thinking, “How do I address it?”

What strategies can I implement in the home to keep my son or daughter active in remembering all the skills learned during the school year?”

When addressing academic regression in children with disabilities, there are a few pieces of information you can identify.


One of these strategies could come through your child’s IEP team. First, you can ask your child’s teacher for feedback on your child’s work, behaviors, and IEP goal progress to help guide your decision for continued instruction over the summer.

Second, collaborating with your child’s teachers and the rest of the IEP team (related services, for example) is an excellent indicator of your child’s ability to sustain information over an extended period of time.

Learning how quickly IEP goals are being met can help you determine if your child is able to remember lessons and materials taught. The more information you can gain, the easier it will be to determine if academic and social regression will occur within your child during the summer break.


Another strategy for identifying regression is to take your own intake of your child’s skill level. Again, as a parent, you know your child the best.

Let me say that again, regardless of what people say about your child, YOU KNOW your child the best.

What you identify as success will help shape your child for the better. The world is harsh, but your parental gut can NEVER be underestimated or second-guessed… if you “feel” that there are particular things your child needs – take action!

A third strategy for identifying regression occurs when assessing your child’s cognitive abilities. Ask questions as simple as “who, what, where, when, and why,” and notice how your child retains information outside school.

When asking your child questions, do so in a manner that encourages open-ended responses (i.e., how do you cook pasta? Tell me what you need to make a complete sentence, where is the dog, cat, squirrel? Ha, what a random set of animals there).

You can also ask them to demonstrate how to solve a problem or complete a household chore. These practical ideas are easy to implement in the day-to-day and will guide you into the perspective of what your child sees and how they perceive and understand the world around them.

Solutions to Academic Regression

One of the solutions to defeating regression can come through (ESY) Extended School Year services. This service allows your child to continue working on IEP goals and skills they have not quite mastered. Specifically, these are the ones you want to make sure they continue to make progress on. 

Your children’s IEP team can answer questions about whether or not your child is eligible. However, in my experience, depending on their needs, most children who have an IEP will qualify for these services.

This service also provides them with the opportunity for classroom-based or mutually agreed upon locations to continue working on specific IEP goals. It’s an excellent opportunity for your child to still have access to a curriculum they are familiar with but not have the same lengthy school day. Typically, it’s only a few days a week for a set number of weeks.

I have found that children susceptible to regression benefit from a few weeks of continued education during the summer. Most parents also love this option because their children still need some routine to keep them engaged during summer.

Special Needs Tutoring

 A second solution to regression is supported through one-on-one, highly individualized special education tutoring.

Through, our team will craft an individualized learning experience specifically for your child. From there, summer regression can indeed be a thing of the past!

The reality is that laser-focused tutoring does not have to take up your entire week; Just 2-3 times a week at 30 minutes per session can completely change your child’s learning trajectory.

The time frame is enough to keep your child excelling in the academic and social skills needed for independence. Then, the rest of your day can be related to fun activities.


Let’s discuss some practical tips you can quickly implement in your home to ward off that pesky summer regression.

There are a few different tips I have uncovered over the years. So many savvy parents are using these and have seen incredible results!

TIP #1. Making Summer Learning Fun!

A widely known fact is that children learn better or more deeply (retain information) when they are having fun! So something as widely available as games (board games, video games, etc.) can boost children’s ability to learn, and the chance of recall and memory improves drastically.

Also, try taking your child’s interests, hobbies, likes, and dislikes and applying them to your “out of the box” summer learning methods! Remember, you know your child the best, and they constantly look to you for guidance and support.

Music is another way to make learning fun. Singing songs is known to support brain recall when learning class material. For example, is your child struggling with personal information? Make up a song with your personal information (i.e., personal information- phone number, address, parent names, etc.) and watch your child sore! 

Another example of how powerful music can be… Try incorporating movements such as dancing or bouncing a basketball to help your child learn the names of all 50 states and capitals. If you aren’t very musically inclined, type “Song for learning states” into Google… you will truly be amazed by how many results pop up!

The bottom line is that when you make learning fun, the human brain becomes amplified, and your child’s learning style begins to emerge.

Try utilizing all of your child’s physical senses- touch, see, hear, smell, yes, even taste.

One SIMPLE example I have personally tried for children who struggle to identify adjectives or descriptive words

  1. Give your child a blindfold and some random food on a plate.
  2. With the blindfold on, ask them to describe the food they taste in their mouths.

Just PLEASE don’t use hot sauce… that doesn’t work out too well!

The point is the more senses you can incorporate with learning, the faster the brain begins to work on creating memory cells that will hold tight to that information, making it harder for one to experience regression.

TIP #2. Make Summer Learning A Positive Experience

The truth is that learning should be a positive experience.

Yes, we make mistakes, and sometimes we feel like we will never reach our goals or master those skills, but the journey does not end there.

Guess what… Children often feel the exact same way when it comes to learning, especially if they have spent years struggling!

Unfortunately, so many children sell themselves short before even TRYING whatever skill is being presented to them.

As a teacher, I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the words
“I can’t do it.”
“It’s too hard.”
“Why even try?”

Unfortunately, so many of us are so focused on the negative aspects of life (or school) it truly becomes a burden we were never meant to carry.

So practice positive affirmations with your child to say, “I can read, I can solve this problem,” and watch their attitudes and moods change for the better in regard to learning (and other areas of life).

“I CAN do it.”
“It’s NOT too hard.”
“Why NOT try?”

TIP #3. Fill Up YOUR Bucket Too

As a parent of a child with special needs (or just a parent in general), we often give everything single last drop of us to our family.

However, one thing that only some people consider is what you do when there are no drops left. In other words, when you are so completely overwhelmed and burnt out… you simply want to tuck yourself away somewhere and cry.

At that point, you have nothing else to give…

So, leaving time for yourself is CRUCIAL (not an option)! You need to build into your weekly schedule SOMETHING that will help fill your bucket and keep you sane. Whatever you enjoy, take/make time to do it.

Then, when you are rested, and your bucket is full… your family will continue getting the best version of YOU! Also, you will find that it’s possible to have much more fun working with your child through all of these exciting summer learning strategies 🙂

Summer Regression Has Affected Us All

One of my passions for working with children who learn differently is because I struggled with learning challenges growing up.

I remember reading books; wait, no, I hated reading because it was such a challenge to figure out what I was reading. Don’t even get me started on the vocabulary words and my decoding skills… – They weren’t the strongest.

It was frustrating and exhausting. My family could see it too, and I think they felt helpless at the time, not knowing how to help me.

So, why am I sharing this with you? I want you to know that even individuals like me, a teacher and parent of a busy, sweet toddler, had to go through life’s challenges so that I could learn how I could overcome them.

It took time, constant discipline, and practice to get where I am today, and it wasn’t easy. Your child desires to do the same.

To be successful and understand that even though they are a little different from their peers, they can still enjoy what life offers them.
Applying the information in this article will help to guide your child into the person they are meant to be.

Strong, capable, and unique.

Keep pressing into them and encouraging them this summer. It doesn’t have to be much. As the saying goes, a little bit goes a long way.

When you SHOW your child how to face challenges head-on, they will be inspired to do the same. It starts in the home, in the family, and with so much love.

As you begin to plan for the summer, make sure to spend some special time with your child with a disability. Make it fun, make it memorable, and most importantly, don’t forget to laugh along the way. Learning never stops for those who want to truly be successful in this life.


Think Differently About Education.

We Believe…

All children are born with the innate ability to reach their OWN excellence.

That a growing group of children don’t fully prosper in overpopulated classrooms.

Through technology and one on one learning, their future path to success can be made clear again.