The end of the school year in the USA brings summer fun and… summer school. Summer school was something regularly recommended for my two dyslexic children by the public school system. It was written into their IEPs (Individualized Education Plan) and invitations to attend were sent as the school year ended. Summer school was proposed so they would retain skills learned during the school year that could be lost during the long ten-week summer vacation.
I had not encountered this phenomenon across the pond in England, probably because there the school year is nearly a month longer. However, now we have personal experience of summer school and that is what I relate here.
Some years my children have participated in public school summer programs and other years they have not. I cannot recall noticing any particular difference in their abilities between the years they did attend compared with the years they did not attend summer school.
They have also participated in summer programs that have offered intensive remediation. These have been beneficial, although they are also expensive. For instance, one summer my daughter completed 40 hours of the Lindamood-Bell (LiPs) program. Following this I noticed a definite improvement in her reading. More information on this experience can be found in my blog post Reading Methods for Dyslexia.
The drawback is that my dyslexic children do not have fond memories of their summer school experiences. In the words of my daughter, “I wanted to be outside like regular kids, instead of being treated like an idiot.”
I find it unfortunate that students with dyslexia have to spend more time within an education system in which they find themselves at odds, and already struggle. Summer school seems to reinforce their inability to progress effectively within the regular education system. They spend extra time working on aspects of their education – reading, writing and sometimes math – in which they are never truly going to excel. Added to this self-esteem, probably already diminished in a child with dyslexia, runs the risk of being further diminished. After all, other students usually have the summer off. So, for the last few summers, summer school has not been on our calendar!
My experience as a mother of children with dyslexia is that they can learn to read better, but with some intensive help. My advice, persevere with finding that help.
In my post “I forgot my husband’s name” I mentioned: “if my children read this… they will be blaming my gene pool.” Even as I wrote those words a mischievous thought entered my mind. “I will never get blamed,” I thought, “because my children, being dyslexic, don’t like to read! They will not read this!”
But I was proved wrong and I was caught! My daughter did read my blog post and she read it very well. She stumbled over a couple of words such as “exacerbates” and “Gabrieli” but I was reminded of the improvement in her ability to read. After reading the post, she added nonchalantly that she already knew that dyslexia was on my side of the family.
The four to five years of intensive remedial (I really dislike that word, it has such a stigma attached to it) teaching now shows its positive effect.
The breakdown of that intensive specialized teaching is like this: To begin with my daughter received forty hours of individual ninety-minute tutorials in the Lindamood Phoneme Sequencing (LiPS) program four days each week during the months of July and August for one summer. The LiPS method teaches students to feel the sounds through the actions of their lips and tongues. It’s pretty cool! She also revisited this program five years later. Although, in her opinion, she did not need to do it again. Then followed, though not immediately, four years of individual tutorial during each school day using the Orton-Gillingham multisensory method to teach reading (decoding) and spelling (encoding). When my daughter reads out loud, I can hear her putting this method into practice as she breaks down the words into syllables or parts.
Over the years, I have had a fair amount of skepticism whether these programs were working and experienced frustration as progress has been slow. If dyslexia is a lifelong condition, I’ve thought, can it really be overcome? But, we’ve persevered and I think the intensity and continual application of these teaching methods has paid off. It is not only my daughter’s ability to read that has improved but also, her self-esteem and confidence.
When she finished reading the post, she rightly was proud of her achievement. We had a good laugh too; about the fact I forgot her Dad’s name!