Live and Learn: Summer Tips from SHEMESH

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The famous song says, “summertime and the living is easy,” but that’s not always the case. While most of us are shifting our focus from school, homework, carpools and academic stress to thoughts of a more relaxed day and some real vacation time, every parent of a child with learning differences knows that worry and concern NEVER take a break:

“My son needs to unwind and I want to help him with it. At the same time, I’m concerned that he’ll lose some of his academic gains over the summer. How do I walk that tightrope between getting a break and maintaining skills?”

“My daughter has been counting the minutes for school to end. Her anxiety level goes down immediately and it’s great that she’s taking a breather. I don’t have the heart to give her summer academic work. What should I do?”

There are so many possibilities to provide our children with learning experiences that don’t feel like school! For starters, sign up for the SHEMESH Summer Workshop Series for Parents.

There’s a two-part session about executive functioning, helping your child learn how to manage time and materials. On July 2 and July 16, Sarah Ottensoser, the SHEMESH executive functioning coach, will provide parents with an understanding of how even the brightest children can have difficulty with planning, organizing and remembering details, even finding their way from one room to the next – something that can be a major challenge in middle and high school. Along with understanding the obstacles some children face with these tasks, parents will learn how to help their children without causing more stress and tension.

Another two-part offering is about the behavior of preschool children, the challenges they present and specific tips for us as parents. “What Your Preschooler is Trying to Say” is offered by the SHEMESH Early Childhood Special Educator and Behavior Specialist Miriam Newmark, July 7 and July 21.There’s a facilitated video presentation about dyslexia (The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia) and one about motivation (The Motivation Breakthrough: Secrets to Turning on the tuned-Out Child). And for people dealing with a child with ADD or ADHD, SHEMESH offers a Tuesday night monthly support group in partnership with CHADD – Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. Summer dates are July 1, August 12 and September 2.

When we see that most parents share our summer worries, we already feel less alone and embattled. When we receive actual information and practical approaches, we start to feel a lot less anxious and much more positive about helping our children make good use of the summer.
Here are a few easy summer lessons that won’t make your child feel like they’re at school:

1) At home, be sure to do your own reading, in full view of your children.
2) Get them to read street signs for you when you’re driving together and to help you figure out which product is more economical when you go shopping.
3) Cooking and baking together provide loads of opportunities to talk about measurements, to double some recipes (they’ll never know that’s really math!)   and to have quality shared time.
4) Read to your children and ask their opinions about the story.
5) If you go out to eat, let an older child calculate the tip and definitely get their help with making lists and then checking items off those lists.

The important thing is to maintain the summer relaxed atmosphere, taking subtle advantage of learning opportunities. You never want to invite children to the Maryland Science Center by saying, “Come on, you’ll learn a lot.” It’s much more inviting to tell them they’ll see dinosaurs and turtles and all kinds of fun machines; then you can quietly include the learning, asking which dinosaur is the largest, why the little boats at the museum slide down the waterway. Or just enjoy the moment, as information seeps into their minds simply by being there.

If you think your child needs some regular tutoring in order to maintain his or her skills, tie the learning to something they find rewarding, whether it’s an outing or making a special smoothie with them. You could offer to play a favorite game or give an extended bedtime. Whatever you do, get them invested in the tutoring and keep it low-key. After all, summer is about taking things a bit easy, isn’t it?

Please call Gila Haor, SHEMESH Professional Development Coordinator, at 410-843-7588 for further information on our summer offerings.

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