How To Maintain Consistency During A School Break

enCORE High SchoolRaise your hand if you’ve ever marked ‘Xs’ on your calendar as part of your countdown plan for something exciting. Perhaps a birthday? A visit with a friend or family member? What about a school break? Guilty…

As an educator, fall, winter, spring and summer vacations are often welcome breaks from the hustle and bustle of standard school routines.  I think we can all agree that rest and relaxation are key in preventing burnout, right? This holds true for your students with moderate to severe disabilities, too.

While we want to ensure that relaxation is baked into a break from school, it’s also important to provide parents/families with tips to provide structure, predictability and a sense of security for your students with extensive support needs during a break from their usual routine.

Why is it important to maintain a routine over school breaks?

A school break – whether a few days or a few months – can result in loss of learning time and regression, which can unintentionally have a negative impact on the growth and development of your student.

For example, while your students are in school they are encouraged to be active and lean into their physical strengths. This could be through physical education, or playing outside during a recess block. However, in some instances, when students go home for a school break, they may want to default to laying on their couch watching Netflix if a schedule isn’t in place. Building in time for routine physical activity can help boost activity, mood, and well-being in general.

Additionally, school breaks can also be a time where students may have limited socialization. They may be used to being in a classroom setting with peers, but then go home for the break to an only-child household (for example). Scheduling certain activities over school breaks can help promote socialization and continued opportunities to reinforce the social skills they are learning at school.

Lastly, returning back to school after a break can be challenging for students with moderate to severe disabilities. Having a seamless routine will certainly help your students as they transition from a school-based setting to home, and then back into the classroom again. Many families find it helpful to incorporate a visual schedule, a family calendar, or another type of visual aid to use as a reference for their children when preparing for a change in their typical routine.

Now that we understand the WHY behind having routines for students over school breaks, let’s take a look at what particular activities can be implemented at home.

The Activities

By maintaining a routine over school breaks, the academic, physical and social well-being of your students can continue to be supported without interruption.

When planning activities for school breaks with special education students, their individual strengths and abilities must be taken into consideration. What works well for one student, may not work for a different student.

Below are a number of activities that you can share with parents/families to help during school breaks.

  • Create a visual schedule: Put together a visual representation of what each day will look like for your child. This can outline the day’s activities so that your child knows what and when to expect certain activities.
  • Keep consistent sleep routines: It’s safe to say most families/educators can tell when a child has not gotten enough sleep, with exaggerated yawning or behavioral challenges surfacing as a result. Try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule to help your child stay rested. This means keeping the same bedtime and wake time as much as possible.
  • Stay active: Incorporate movement into your child’s day. You can schedule time for a walk, yoga, dancing, playing outside, swimming etc. This will help deter a lack of inactivity, while encouraging physical health. If your child has limited mobility or is recovering from a medical procedure, spending even a few minutes outside (such as sitting on the porch) is still beneficial.
  • Practice academic skills: Build time into your child’s routine to refresh on the academic skills they have recently mastered. You can do this by reading, writing, spelling, practicing math, playing educational games, and more.
    • Bonus: If your child has access to special education software such as TeachTown’s enCORE K-12, or key interventions like Basics, Social Skills, or Transition to Adulthood, you can continue learning at home with targeted practice on their individualized learning needs
  • Socialize: When you can, schedule opportunities for your child to socialize. Perhaps a playdate at the park, or a visit over to see family members. If you can’t meet in person, we’ve all become very familiar with virtual meetings which will do the trick!
  • Sensory bins: Try setting up different sensory stations for your child. You can create different bins that hold various textures, smells, tastes and more. For example, you can have one bin filled with sand and another filled with shaving cream. Many very young children like to put things in their mouth – sensory bin play should always be supervised, regardless of the age of the child.
  • Cook a recipe: Ask your child what their favorite snack is. Look up the recipe, gather the ingredients and bake it together. Cooking together is an excellent way to practice basic math skills – like identifying units of measurement or adding simple fractions. It also offers a fun way to practice reading together.
  • Create: Let your child explore their creative side. Gather materials for coloring, painting, sculpting – whichever activity your child favors, and let them express themselves through art.
  • Plan an outing: Consider what your child is most interested in and plan an outing around it. If your child loves to learn about lions, tigers and bears – try a day at the zoo. Or, if your child loves sports, try to attend a baseball game!

Most importantly, schedule time for some good ol’ fashion R&R. Like we mentioned earlier, it is important to take some downtime to recharge during a school break. During this time, let your child guide the activities. Perhaps they want to play with their toys, or watch their favorite TV show. This is their time to “chill” before it’s back to the grind for them, too!

After you share the activity ideas above with your students’ parents/families, remind them that you are available to chat through different ideas in advance of break(s). Afterall, consistent communication between educators and families will only lead your students down a path of continued success.

Enjoy your break!

Contributor Bio

Megan GilsonMegan Gilson is the Senior Manager of Content Marketing at TeachTown, the leading provider of K-12 adapted core curriculum. A skilled content creator, Megan has spent the last decade of her career raising awareness about the benefits of health, wellness and equitable and inclusive education. She received her bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

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