Tomorrow Nate has his first day of school — well, first day of Extended School Year (ESY). Many kids with special needs go to school year round to prevent regression in skills gained during the academic year. ESY is intended to keep up Nate’s progress but not necessarily further it to any great extent: the days are shorter (8:30 – 1:30 instead of 8:15 – 3:00), extra curricular activities (gym, library, and music) are not offered, and supplemental services like OT and PT are offered at a bare minimum. (Nate gets one in-school OT visit during the five weeks and no school-based PT this summer.) However, Nate will continue with his daily half-hour speech sessions with Ms. Mollie. Nate’s classroom teachers will change though — but just for the summer. They’ll be the same as last ESY: Ms. Pat, who mentored Ms. Susie as she began teaching, another Ms. Pat (which must confuse Nate to no end), and Ms. Kathy, who works in a classroom across the hall from Nate’s during the academic year. Nate will be reunited with his friends and I hear rumor that some new boys will be joining the class, too.
Nate gets two weeks off before and after ESY as “summer.” And I’m proud to say that we happily made it through Part 1 of summer!!! So I could work, we hired a baby sitter and we found the *most* amazing woman to play with Nate, a dear friend of Nate’s gal pal Gwenyth! Julia just graduated with her degree in Special Education and, while she was visiting with us, was hired to be a lead teacher for special needs kids at a private school in Massachusetts. Julia’s presence allowed me to get my work done and kept Nate happy, entertained, and nourished.
Prior to the break, I had a team meeting with Ms. Susie to get some ideas on things to keep Nate’s progress going over the two-week break. Here are some of the things we did, all of which Nate loves and are easily transferable to kids of any ability. These activities have been good to get Nate to work on at home but also keep him happily busy in restaurants and while we’re out and about. Some of these were worksheets that Susie gave us but they’re easy enough to make on your own.
Cutting and Sorting
Susie gave me some worksheets for Nate to cut (with safety scissors). After cutting out the squares (the cut lines are highlighted in yellow to keep him focused), he needs to sort them by type of animal (in this case, cat or dog) and then glue-stick them down to the appropriate cloud.
Susie also gave me these sorting worksheets in the fall and we still have a bunch. Nate needs to cut (or tear) a strip of colored paper and match it to the right color/word. Then he glue-sticks it to the paper. This is one of the greatest restaurant activities ever.
Fine Motor Skills/Planning
Super simple and super brilliant. Susie drew a dashed-line shape on a piece of paper and gave us a bunch of tiny stickers for Nate to use to create the shape. This is also another super restaurant activity and a great use for all those random tiny stickers that parenthood tends to throw at you.
Fine Motor Skills/Counting
To build hand strength, Nate uses Theraputty. It comes in different colors and each color is a different strength/resistance. To make Nate use it, Ms. Susie ingeniously hides beads and treasures in there and asks Nate to find ten items and put them on the counting card. (There’s always more than ten items in the theraputty to prevent failure.) Once the ten items have been found, Nate has to pick up each bead, push it into the Theraputty, and pinch it closed. To recreate this activity in any home, PlayDoh could easily be substituted though Theraputty does have this magical ability to not stick to the beads and surfaces, so it’s our total favorite.
Nate has shown a real interest in writing lately. At the end of the academic year, Nate’s teachers started writing his name in a yellow highlighter, which he diligently endeavored to trace. I found this dry-erase book at Toys ‘R Us and some washable dry-erase markers at Target. Best buy ever. Nate likes to trace the letters, numbers, and shapes in this book both at home and while out and about.
We all know my son is an artist. Here’s his latest masterpiece that he made with Julia. I love it.
Now don’t worry! Nate got his fair share of Curious George, jumping on his brand-new birthday trampoline, sprinkler time, a visit to the science museum, and other traditional summer time activities. But we’re grateful to Ms. Susie for helping us keep Nate moving ahead in everything he’s learned this year!
If you’re on Facebook, come on over and be Nate’s pal on his Facebook fan page! I post updates and photos there regularly throughout the week. :)