The Benefits of an Academic Summer Program for Students with a Learning Disability

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By Meghan Mileham

Trying to figure out what the best option is for your student? Could they use some academic support during the summer while keeping the summer fun? Academic summer camps offer a unique experience for campers with days consisting of classes or workshops and recreational activities. While fun in the sun is still a few months away, there are some benefits of an academic summer program to start thinking about. 

The best of both worlds. An academic summer camp can be a tough sell, but when a child struggles with a learning difference, sometimes it is the best option for families. It is true that summer is supposed to be fun. Learning can be rewarding too. By integrating both academic and recreational activities, campers can get the best of both worlds. Often camps are designed with classes in the mornings and recreational activities in the afternoons. Campers find that having activities in the afternoon helps them power through their morning classes with something to look forward to. While students do have to attend the morning classes, it is a relief to campers when they find there is no homework, tests, or quizzes. 

Increase social skills. Academic summer camp offers a refreshing twist for campers. It breaks up the routine that they have developed through the school year but in a safe, supportive environment. Not only is the structure and approach different, but campers also meet people from many different places who have struggled in school. Together they bond and find encouragement and resilience through their newfound connections and activities. For many students, academic summer camp is the first time they feel like they belong in the classroom.

Emotional growth. If the camp is a residential camp, this may be the first time a child will be away from their parents for a long period of time. Kids may feel sad to leave home and may be nervous about making new friends. Once camp starts, the transformation begins. Emotional growth happens as campers face any worries they felt in coming and through interacting with each other and trained camp counselors, who can help guide them when necessary. The new environment and fun activities invite feelings of confidence and independence and encourage the start to new friendships. By the time camp ends, students are glad they came and will miss their home away from home. 

Self-advocacy. At camp parents aren’t nearby to help solve problems. It is a parent’s natural instinct to want to swoop in when a child struggles or is unhappy, but a key component of summer camp is encouraging campers to ask for help when they need it. Trained counselors are always present to guide students through solutions to a situation. Helping students develop their advocacy skills is usually included in the programming as well as giving students tools to better understand and function within their school environment when they return home.

Academic growth. For most students who have a learning difference, attending a specialized camp can be the first time they’ve been on a level playing field. During the regular school year,  the classroom can be a stressful place. There students may feel isolated, frustrated, and unsuccessful. At an academic summer camp, classes are a place where students feel welcomed,  supported, and challenged. Summer classes help campers identify their strengths and how to use those strengths to their advantage. The best programs encourage students to embrace their unique learning styles. An additional bonus, small class sizes, allow campers to have the one-on-one attention they need. 

Newfound talents. Camp acts as a fresh start for students. Not only do they discover new strategies for school, they are also exposed to many activities that can uncover strengths they didn’t know they had. Participating in team sports like soccer or lacrosse or engaging in the arts like painting or pottery provide rewarding experiences and positive learning environments as well as the opportunity to try something new. Academic summer camp will reveal interests and talents through an environment that encourages self-discovery and exploration.

The right academic summer camp can be fun and engaging. It is a great way to give your student the skills and confidence to tackle school in the fall while enjoying novel activities and meeting new friends in the summer.


Author’s note:  

“Summer school” doesn’t begin to cover Gow’s exciting and challenging summer program, designed for students who have been experiencing academic difficulties or who have language-based learning differences. To learn more about The Gow School five-week summer program, please click here. 


Meghan Mileham is the Assistant Director of Admissions at The Gow School, a  coed college-prep boarding and day school for students, grades 6-12, with dyslexia and similar language-based learning disabilities in New York.

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