A Total Break is Not a Great Idea


As much as most parents want to offer their exhausted and frustrated dyslexic child a couple months off from their academic skill building, most parents instinctively know that a total reprieve is not in their child’s best interest.  Scientific data clearly show that many children, especially dyslexic boys and girls, lose reading skills over the summer. In a dyslexic child, written words are often still transient, temporary.  It is common for a beginning reader to read the word correctly and yet find that five minutes later she will not be able to decipher that very same word.

"Why?" says Dr. Sally Shaywitz. "This gets to the heart of a major problem for the dyslexic child; the word has not found a permanent home within the automatic reading system (the word form region) of the neural circuit for skilled, fluent, automatic reading. With more practice and experiences reading the word correctly – this (and other words as well) will become permanently instantiated or represented in the word form region. Once that happens, the word can then be read correctly and quickly each time the child sees it. Especially for a dyslexic child, this process takes time. If a child has been practicing a given set of words and word families during the school year, representatives of the word are beginning to find a permanent home within the word form area. However, if this process is interrupted before the word is permanently represented in the child’s brain, it often means having to learn the word all over again."

But how much of the day should be spent focused on academic remediation?  What is the most time-efficient and effective method of delivering remediation? And who should deliver it?  How does one balance a child’s academic growth with play, rest, exploration and pursuit of the child’s passions? 

These questions are further complicated by the necessary considerations of cost and convenience.  Even families who live in urban areas are faced with the daunting task of coordinating transportation and scheduling of summer support.  It seems that help is never close enough, and, like every other service, bringing help to one’s home is accompanied by increased cost.  How much time should children spend being shuttled around in a car to tutors and specialists during precious summer time?  Some families visit relatives or move around a lot during the summer and can find it challenging to provide academic support. Ultimately, parents of a dyslexic child will have the best sense for how to navigate these time tensions.  Each child is different and each family has different considerations.