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The summer-service debate.

Full disclosure, this post is not a debate.

I won't be presenting arguments for both sides. I will be presenting arguments to support my clinical opinion--take it, or leave it. But I hope you'll take it :P

The issue: Should kids receiving early intervention take a break over the summer vacation?

My perspective; Absolutely not.

Let me begin by saying whenever this question arises, it comes from good-intentioned parents who present sound logic; as a parent (had to work that in--I'm a NEW MOM!!), I completely understand wanting your children to have some time to 'just be a kid' to 'get messy, make friends, and be stress free'. That said, as a clinician I have a unique opinion--or at least, an educated opinion. I have seen the results of 'taking a break' and compared it with the results of maintaining service schedules. The results speak for themselves.

Let me also add--you, the reader, are (presumably) not my client--I have nothing to gain (financially) from you continuing your service. If you are my client, and are reading this, I have no way of knowing that--I am just putting it out there!

Allow me to qualify my perspective with some reasons.

1. The most obvious, but perhaps least compelling--early intervention is treatment. You wouldn't 'take a break' from your heart medication or other medically prescribed remedy...If you are prescribed a treatment to treat a chronic and lifelong condition, you don't simply take a break from it on a whim. Of course, treatment and prognosis should be re-evaluate over time, and this does not mean you will always need the same level/intensity of treatment, but until it's recommended by a clinician, doctor or otherwise (and rooted in data might I add)--don't simply 'break' from treatment because of the season.

2. I get it, you want your child to have a 'normal' summer vacation experience; summer break is a social norm we have become used to. Children receiving early intervention are working on a myriad of goals, including goals which are easily adaptable to 'seasonal norms'. What does that mean? A good service provider is going to modify programming, at least to some degree, to reflect socially appropriate goals for the season; whether that means that when the weather is warm your child tackles gross motor goals like pumping his or her legs on a swing, outdoor leisure skills (park trips anyone?!), and swimming or social interaction goals like playful banter or conversation, interactive motor play with peers, and so on, when the seasons change--so do some of our goals. Will some goals remain? Of course! We will never do away with goals like communicating effectively, managing behaviour, or generally developing as individuals--that said, the way we elicit goals and the approaches we use to teach goals will often change to accommodate/reflect social norms. For example, at Magnificent Minds our kids work on group/social skills in our classrooms during the academic year and work on group skills at our summer camp during July & August. This is just one way to normalize the therapeutic experience.

Bottom line--a good provider understands your desire for your child to have a 'normal' experience, and balances that desire with the importance of remaining true to treatment goals. If your provider isn't doing this, might I suggest taking an alternate route to treatment.

3. Skill maintenance often doesn't occur unless it's actively targeted; if we don't use a skill, it has the potential to get lost (flash back to grade 9 geometry anyone?!). Lack of skill maintenance is a risk if you stop services, even temporarily (add in exceptionalities like autism or otherwise and the risk of skill loss increases dramatically). Countless times I have seen parents invest time and money into round-the-clock treatment, only to 'break' in the summer and return in the fall several steps behind. Obviously it is disheartening to have to go backwards; but don't be mistaken, this is not regression, this is skill loss or lack of maintenance and it is often preventable.

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