learning skills

Summer School or Summer Camp?

It happens every spring. I get a frantic call from a parent of a child who is about to be held back a grade in school if the child does not attend summer school. Sometimes, the child is in public school and struggled with math, reading, or everything, and has the state testing results to “prove” it. Other times, the child is in private school and is not able to keep up with the private school’s accelerated program.

This year I received a call from Leo’s mother, Nina. Leo is a small, 12-year-old handsome Mexican-American boy with a smile that can melt your heart. Leo is about to be withheld in 6th grade if he does not go to summer school. Leo struggles with reading. But because his private school doesn’t have a summer school offering, Leo’s mother goes to the neighborhood public school to register him for summer school. The principal says that Leo ineligible to go to the public summer school because he does not attend the district’s public school during the academic year. Leo’s dad doesn’t want his son withheld, but his mother cannot find a summer school program.

That is when I received her frantic call. I assure Nina that the SOI test and IPP screening will get to the root cause of the problem, and that I have summer camp to help Leo individually. I also tell Nina that Leo would do the same things in summer school that he did during the school year that did not work.

Sitting across from Leo while he takes the SOI test, I can tell that he is definitely gifted in some areas but struggles in comprehension. When I perform the IPP screening, I discover Leo’s reading issue: his eyes cannot focus on a point nor does he have binocular vision. Probably everything he reads is blurry, but he doesn’t know the page is blurry because he has never seen a clear page of print! Leo can read or call words on grade level but comprehension is limited. Because of his reading issues, Leo has been kept in ESL since kindergarten.

Leo has been with me for 3 weeks (24 hours) of summer camp with another week to go before retesting. Leo’s transformation has been amazing! He is already a confident learner and cannot wait to be re-tested next week because he knows he has improved. Last week we did a reading activity on drawing conclusions and inference. A day later, while I was sitting beside him as he did SOI Following Directions IIv on the computer, the directions were:

  1. Blue Square
  2. Other Blue Shape
  3. Yellow shape – opposite corner
  4. Other circle corner

Before going to the figure page to pick out the shapes he said, “I can infer that the yellow shape is a circle too.” He was right! I was blown away. When you teach a child a reading strategy and the next day he applies the skill to a different kind of activity, you know the child is mastering the reading skill!

Leo has also been doing his IPP exercises to improve his ability to focus his eyes. He loves the exercises and is determined to do them with precision. He asks to take the red bean bag ball home to practice tossing and following the ball. He does some of the FS Print exercises at home in order to get better quicker.

If Leo had been able to go to summer school, would he have done IPP exercises to improve his focusing skills? No. Would he have done reading skills practice? Probably, but on a sixth grade reading level, not third grade reading level. Nina was given a sixth grade workbook for Leo to do at home this summer. I looked it over and decided we could cover the same skills with third grade reading level materials. Why would you give a sixth grader, who struggles with reading, a sixth grade workbook? Might as well give him a book in Russian.

I can hardly wait until August when I go to the principal’s office with Nina and show him what Leo accomplished this summer.

written by: Patricia Stafford, SOI Practitioner

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