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BY Ruth

17 Fun Tips for Summer Language Building

School’s out for the summer!  Now what?

Summer vacation can be trying for parents, especially those with special needs children.  Although the break offers great opportunities for fun, relaxation and bonding, there is a lot of time to be filled and even the most prepared parents sometimes run low on ideas.

Keep in mind that summer presents a great opportunity for learning and language stimulation.  Here are a few language-rich suggestions to make your child’s summer fun and stimulating.

Get your child ready for camp

Preparedness is essential for a smooth transition to camp.  Many children experience difficulties with schedule changes and new transitions.

1. Try to visit the camp and rehearse getting on and off the bus or in and out of your car.

2. Practice the new morning routine at least a couple of days ahead of time. Children with special needs typically have less anxiety and do better with learned routines and consistency.

3. Make a visual schedule to help with the new morning sequence.

4. Use a calendar to help your child prepare and count down to the start of camp.

5. Pair your child with a buddy/friend who is also attending the camp.

6. Read simple books about summer camp and what to expect.

7. Negotiate a half-day attendance with the camp supervisor until your child gets acclimated

Targeted language/learning skills:

1. Draw a bus and other vehicles. Talk about parts of the bus and the sequence of getting in and out of the bus.

2. Have your child tell you the sequence of getting ready for camp, with and without a visual schedule.

3. Learn the days of the week and names of the month. Practice counting and recognizing numbers.

Celebrate July 4

1. Make or draw a flag with your child and attach it to a ruler of paper towel roll.

2. Have a private parade! March around your house to recorded music or use instruments and make your own.

3. Simon Says as you listen to the music or with the instruments.

4. Play motor imitation games to the music.  How many sequences of imitations can he/she/you remember?  Take turns being the leader.

Targeted language/learning skills:

1. Growing vocabulary of nouns, actions and concepts ( stripes, cut, drum, shake,  march, fast/slow).

2. Building memory for motor sequences and following directions.

3. Expanding sentences, depending on your child’s skill level, from single words or approximations to multi-word grammatically correct sentences.

4. Increasing eye contact or attention to our faces (Simon Says and imitation games – blinking, closing/opening eyes, silly faces, different expressions, pointing to various facial parts).

5. Simple question formulation and advocacy skills (Is it my turn? Can I do it?  Help me.  Show me).

6. Social skills (turn taking, attention, questions and answers, eye contact, facial expressions).

Plant a garden

1. Depending on your child’s skill level, have them pick their own flower or vegetable seeds or help you decide.

2. Read The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss before you plant.

3.Discuss gardening tools and planting steps.

4. Have your child tell you each step as they plant.

5. Take turns with each step and have your child direct you.

6. Take pictures of your child at each step for a personalized planting book.  Have her dictate the story.

Targeted language/learning skills:

1. Building vocabulary (gardening tools, dig, plant, water,  outside/inside,  clean/dirty, in/out, sunny).

2. Expanding sentence length, grammatical skills and relaying sequential information.

3. Understanding and responding to higher level questions (Why do we need a shovel?  Why does a flower need water?  What happens next?  What happens if we forget to water the seed?).

4. Responsibility for initiating, following through and completing a project.

Have some outdoor fun

1. Discuss what you will need to take to a campout, beach, pool or other location.

2. Fill a bag with appropriate and inappropriate items. Take turns picking out an item and discuss whether it is needed, why or why not.

3. Take turns wearing blindfolds and try to recognize items through touch. Have the one who sees the item describe the item to the blindfolded partner using feature, function, category and location clues.

4. Have your child plan and pack a meal.

Targeted language/learning skills:

1. Expanding vocabulary, expressive language and social skills (naming objects, actions and concepts, describing what is going on, waiting, turn-taking, staying on-task).

2. Growing sequential memory (taking turns and adding items “I’m going camping and I’m bringing….”)

3. Problem-solving and predicting (What do we need at night?  Why do we need a towel?  What happens if it rains? What are you going to do if your hands/feet get dirty?).

4. Increasing initiating, planning and organizing skills. (What should we bring?  How do we pack?).

The most important things to remember are to be aware of and tailor the activity to your child’s skill and interest levels, demonstrate flexibility with your child’s changing interests, be patient, give your child time to respond, model and prompt and have fun!  Enjoy the time you are spending together and have a great summer.


Written on July 2, 2013 by:

Ruth HaberkornHalm is a speech-language pathologist at the Kaufman Children’s Center for Speech, Language, Sensory-Motor & Social Connections, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio State University, where she received both her BA and MA degree in speech and hearing science. Ruth has professional experience in a variety of settings including private practice, public schools, hospitals, residential centers for multi-handicapped populations, and with the March of Dimes organization. Ruth is trained in Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), LINKS to Language, The Kaufman Speech to Language Protocol, and she also has experience with applied verbal behavior (AVB). She is a Baby Signs® independent certified instructor.

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