Summer: A Critical Time for Students with Learning Differences

For school-aged children and youth, summer break can offer time for a slower pace, leisure, and a much-needed break from regular school programming. However, a nine-week break from essential skills such as reading, writing, and math for students with learning difficulties can significantly impact their ability to retain skills developed during the school year. Summer break can put them at a disadvantage to their peers when school resumes in September. While there are benefits in having time for rest during the summer, research demonstrates that long breaks((Eight to twelve weeks off school)) widen the gap for students with learning disabilities. Summer is a “critical time”((Contesse, V. A., Campese, T., Kaplan, R., Mullen, D. A., Pico, D. L., Gage, N. A., & Lane, H. B. (2021). The effects of an intensive summer literacy intervention on reader development. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 37(3), 221-239.)) for students requiring academic intervention to support their learning and development1.  

During summer, when there are no opportunities to work on structured learning and executive function skills, students with learning difficulties fall further behind their peers, and there can be “lasting consequences of summer learning gaps”((Alexander K. L., Entwisle D. R., Olson L. S. (2007a). Lasting consequences of the summer learning gap. American Sociological Review, 72, 167–180. )). These learning difficulties include learning disabilities and other diagnoses that impact classroom learning, such as;  

Students with learning difficulties benefit from structured, individualized one-to-one or small-group instruction and classroom learning.   

Reduce the gap

According to a wealth of research on summer academic interventions for students with learning difficulties, structured and intensive academic interventions reduce the gap that emerges over summer between typical learners and struggling learners((Kim J. S., Quinn D. M. (2013). The effects of summer reading on low-income children’s literacy achievement from kindergarten to grade 8: A meta-analysis of classroom and home interventions. Review of Educational Research, 83, 386–431.)). There are different types of programs available for summer learning; however, a recent research study on models for summer learning((Heneger, K. J. (2020). Summer School: Does Timing Matter? [Doctoral Dissertation]. Doane University.)) suggests that effective programs:  

  • Minimize the amount of time children and youth spend outside of structured learning opportunities  
  • Are evidence-based interventions  
  • Are individualized to the learner’s specific area of academic challenge   

Opportunity for social-emotional learning

Additionally, many students with learning difficulties may also experience challenges with self-confidence and social and emotional skills, including making and sustaining friendships with their peer groups. Academic summer interventions provide social opportunities for students to engage with peers who may also be experiencing similar challenges. They can provide significant opportunities for positive social interactions which support mental health and well-being((Morgan, K., Melendez-Torres, G. J., Bond, A., Hawkins, J., Hewitt, G., Murphy, S., & Moore, G. (2019). Socio-economic inequalities in adolescent summer holiday experiences, and mental wellbeing on return to school: analysis of the school health research network/health behaviour in school-aged children survey in Wales. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(7), 1107.)).  

LDS Solutions to the Summer Slide Challenge

LDS offers a wide range of summer-specific programming for students in grades 2 through 12 that provide academic support as well as opportunities for peer social engagement.

You can learn more about our intensive academic summer programs, summer camps, tutoring, summer school support and more for both elementary and high school students.

Please also reach out if you have questions about these programs or our other supports for students and families.

– Jennifer Fane, Director of Education

LDS is a community of dedicated professionals that write collaboratively. We recognize the contribution of unnamed team members for their wisdom and input.

  1. Christodoulou, J. A., Cyr, A., Murtagh, J., Chang, P., Lin, J., Guarino, A. J., Hook, P., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2017). Impact of Intensive Summer Reading Intervention for Children With Reading Disabilities and Difficulties in Early Elementary School. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 50(2), 115–127.  []