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Go from school to summer with ease!

Summer break, for students, is often a beacon of freedom from homework, alarm clocks, bus routes and more – and I know many adults who look forward to a respite from those things, too! Washington State has so many beautiful places to explore with children of all ages, and summer can be an opportunity to create wonderful memories of experiencing the natural world…and maybe a water park or two.
But for many families, summer also represents a vast unknown: where will my child go while I am at work? How will we supplement the free/reduced lunch we rely on? What learning will be lost during those months of unstructured time?

While some of those questions can be answered with a robust network of summer programming, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, and Summer Meals, there are other gaps in resources that remain challenging. I have experienced the summer gap with both joy and trepidation as the parent of children who have special health care needs. In Washington State, there are hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities receiving support services through our public schools. For many, school is the primary place to access important resources such as speech therapy, occupational or physical therapy, social skills groups, and behavior plans. So what are some things families can do during those summer months?

These resources provide more information about summer opportunities for young people with disabilities or special health needs:

An annual directory of summer camps in Washington State is available in both digital and print versions. If you access it online, you can search for camps by location, time frame, special needs considerations, and more.

Extended School Year, or ESY, is the continuation of some special education services through the summer based on a student’s IEP.

For ADA-accessible trails, the Washington Trails Association has a wealth of information about locations throughout the state for your next family trip.

Lifespan Respite of Washington offers information and resources for caregivers seeking respite options.

One thing that I have found helpful for my family is to create personalized social stories that feature pictures of us and the activities we anticipate happening over the summer. The story can be a daily routine or a special event. Read more about social stories.

For my family, it feels like we have only just gotten the hang of establishing a somewhat predictable summer routine – and my kids are nearly teenagers! If I could give myself one piece of advice back when they were little, I would say to plan for what you can, count on a few surprises, and make sure to enjoy it in the moment. I often hear from other parents how pressured we feel to “maximize opportunities” for our children. While supporting growth and development is important, I think it is also okay (and necessary) to allow for some unstructured time – even boredom!

Have a happy and healthy summer – only 84 more days to go!

Learn more about Jen’s role as a Family Support Coordinator.

Tags: ADA   children with special needs   summer   summer meals   

Dare to Help Kids Grow and Learn This Summer!

Summer is officially here, which means a break from school and homework and a time for kids to play! We all know how important physical activity and creative play is for children, but a whole summer without academics can take its toll come fall.

Research shows that students who take standardized tests at the beginning and end of summer break consistently receive lower scores on the second test. Students from low-income families are especially at risk: while most students fall about two months behind their grade level in math during the summer, low-income students also consistently fall behind in reading. This loss of knowledge means that teachers need to spend the beginning of the school year re-teaching last year’s curriculum—which cuts into learning new topics. Compounded over the course of elementary and secondary education, these yearly learning losses lead to poor long-term outcomes.

Summer learning loss for low-income kids is part of an even larger issue.  Aside from the fact that they do not have access to luxuries such as summer camp, full-time childcare, or family vacations to stimulate their minds over the summer, these kids lack a very basic resource: food. Kids can’t play or learn when they’re hungry; the summer learning loss that affects all kids hits those without adequate nutrition especially hard. Summer hunger affects thousands of kids in Washington—the 476,000 students who receive free or reduced school meals have to find other sources of nutrition during the break.  Their families may spend an additional $300 a month to feed them the meals they would otherwise get at school.

The good news is that partners all over the state work together to alleviate summer hunger for kids in need. The Washington State Summer Food Service Program, better known as the Summer Meals Program, is an extension of the free and reduced meals that kids get during the school year.  There are sites all over the State that serve any combination of breakfast, lunch, snacks, and even dinner to anyone under age 18 for free. There are no sign-ups, no income requirements, and no proof of identification necessary to qualify.

In addition to alleviating hunger, many sites also have learning activities for kids and teens to help combat summer learning loss. Find the closest site to you right here!

So, we know that a whole summer without educational activities and nutritious food hurts kids and classrooms. That’s why we want to dare you to help kids grow and learn this summer. Summer learning doesn’t have to mean sitting inside and drilling the multiplication tables— with a little creativity, you can combat summer learning loss in a fun way and make sure the kids you know are ready to begin the school year come September. Here are some ideas to help you dare to reach for the kids in your life:

Get outside:  Walk, bike or run outside!

Trails: There is so much green space to explore in King and Snohomish Counties! Bring a nature guide and try to identify as many plants, animals, and bugs as you can. And you don’t have to stop there; check out these great hikes for young children. From Whidbey Island and Wenatchee to the Columbia River, there is no shortage of places to explore!

Use the library: The library is an incredible summer resource.  It’s more than just a place to borrow books—Seattle Public Libraries offer a limited number of free museum passes every day to people with library cards. Even better, you can reserve your tickets online! Also be sure to check out your local library’s calendar of events–there are fun activities, classes and story times to take part in.

Museums:  There are a bunch of museums in Seattle and Snohomish counties that are free on the first Thursday of every month, and others that have free or discounted admission at different times. If you live outside of King and Snohomish Counties, check out this great search tool to find museums in your area.

Family fun:  SeaFair is a Puget Sound tradition that shouldn’t be missed. Feed your child’s curiosity about planes, boats, music and more at this summer-long festival!

Rainy days:  If you’re having an inside day, check out this list of educational (and fun!) apps, games, and websites for kids.  Filter by age to find something for everyone! We especially love Khan Academy for tweens and teens, and the Toontastic app for elementary-age kids.

ParentMap: Find your Northwest summer adventures through ParentMap’s great list of family events and activities around the Puget Sound! Look for the green FREE circle!

Learn to Code: Check out these free workshops for youth at the Microsoft store in Seattle!

See a PlayShakespeare in the Park starts on July 10th, and its rotating schedule means that you can find a location close to you! Pack a picnic and bring the whole family for these free performances.

And of course,

Free Summer MealsFind the site closest to you and get all the information about the activities offered at sites throughout King County—and let others know about them too!

There are so many ways to make sure the kids in your life are staying engaged throughout the summer.  We dare you to take the initiative and try our suggestions for a summer of learning and growing together!


Tags: Dare to Reach   King County   ParentHelp123   Seattle   summer   summer learning   summer meals   

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