Summer Goals: Why They are So Important for Students Who Learn Differently

As the “lazy days of summer” pass us by, some of you may be wondering, “How can I add to my summer experience in little ways that will benefit me?” This is not only a great time for Wye River Upper School students to refresh, recharge, and do all the things that they find enjoyable and are passionate about but it’s also an excellent time for anyone to try new things, set new achievable goals, and prepare for the upcoming school year.

Here are some suggestions in academic, service, self-advocacy, and career exploration:

Academics

Now is a great time to brush up on academic skills either in an area of need or further dive into an area of academic passion. This is especially important for students who struggle with learning differences and ADHD.

  • Take an online or in-person class in an area you are passionate about. There are many opportunities in the arts, creative writing, and sports/fitness activities.
  • Check into Khan Academy for practicing specific skills and for PSAT/SAT prep (if you are an 11th/12th grader).
  • Read anything! Pick up a graphic novel, a magazine, or even a travel guide. Find something cool to do on your upcoming family vacation or plan your next getaway.
  • Create a proposal for the next school year using brainstorming and writing templates.
  • Passionate about starting something new at school? A new club, organization, service project? Do some research and create a written proposal.

Self-Advocacy

Understanding your learning needs and style can lead to the confidence and awareness you need to advocate for yourself at school and in a variety of home and work environments.

  • Create a list or visual and include all the things that give you a positive feeling when learning. Think about what teaching styles work well for you and how you best take in new information. You can even include environmental conditions. For example, I know I work best in a space without much clutter and with a low level of background noise.
  • Create a second list or visual and include all the things that do not work well for your learning. You can use these to help start conversations with others who are here to support your success. Communicating your needs to others can take place in a letter, an email, on the phone, or in person. Start where you are most comfortable and build up to a communication method that is the most challenging.
  • Empower yourself by learning the science behind your own diagnosis. Watch videos and read articles about ADHD and learning differences. Ask questions of parents and physicians in an effort to become self-aware. This will go a long way towards being your own best advocate.

Service/Career

There are countless benefits to serving your community.

  • Find an organization or activity that will lead to continued opportunities, such as networking contacts, a future job, and exploring career interests.
  • Check your county and city parks and recreation offices, local historical societies/organizations, or local environmental agencies/organizations.
  • Don’t see anything advertised for service? That’s ok, make a phone call or send an email to any organization and ask about opportunities. Describe your interests and request a chance to visit, work shadow or participate in an event. You’ll be pleased to know these opportunities often exist and aren’t marketed to the general public.

Goals for Transitioning to High School

Any new transition can be a challenge, but sometimes more difficult for students with learning differences. Anything that is important to you as you transition can be a good goal. Write your goal down, print it, post it in your study area, and share it with anyone who can help support you.

  • Set yourself up for success by thinking now about what 9th grade - or 10th, 11th, 12th grade, or college - might look like for you. Think about your goals and ask yourself the following questions. What do they look like? How will I achieve them? Whose help and resources do I need to achieve my goals?
  • Your goal may be about executive function - organizing and structuring your workload in the fall for example, which might include using a large desktop calendar for long and short-term planning, or a dry erase board for important reminders? Think about what works for you. If you’re not sure, ask a family member or school advisor for some help.

If you have other ideas about how to enrich your summer experience through goal-setting or easing the transition into high school, please share them with Nicole Sophocles.


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The Summer Slide: How to support upper school students with learning differences over the summer

After a long and tumultuous school year, our Wye River Upper School young adults have made it to summer break. I would encourage them to use this time to reflect on the past school year and plan for the future. I'm sure our students have learned some wonderful habits of independence while working within the hybrid model. Unfortunately, they have naturally lost some social skills as a result of working from home. While thinking about what worked and what didn't, as parents and guardians, we can use this time to help them organize and prepare for the new school year slowly and thoughtfully. 

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