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

Meghan Mileham, Assistant Director of Admissions

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? The Gow School Summer Program (GSSP) offers a unique experience for our campers with days consisting of academics and recreational activities. While fun in the sun is still a few months away, there are a few 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. However, camp is supposed to be fun, so with the integration of both academic and recreational activities campers can get the best of both worlds. At GSSP, students attend four classes in the morning and then four recreational periods in the afternoon. 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 in social skills. Camp gets kids out of their comfort zone. It breaks up the routine that they have developed through the school year but in a safe, supportive environment. Camp allows children to meet people from all over the world. They bond over the fact that they all have struggled in school. For the first time, our campers feel like they belong in the classroom.

Emotional growth. For most, camp is the first time they will be away from their parents for a long period of time. While kids are sad to leave and are nervous to make new friends, camp allows them to be independent. Campers start off a little anxious about being in a new environment but as camp continues they are excited about the friends they have made, and soon they are sad to see camp come to an end. At Gow, we have had campers go from crying on the first day of leaving their parents to them crying on their last day because they don’t want to leave their camp friends. With parents not being around to solve problems, students learn how to smooth things out themselves. With the assistance of our trained camp counselors, campers are taught skills to help in social situations.

Self Advocacy. For the first time, parents aren’t there to help solve problems. It is a parent’s natural instinct to try and swoop in when there is trouble, but at GSSP we encourage campers to ask for help. Counselors are always there to help teaching skills so that students learn to speak up and work through a situation. Our academic program focuses on helping students develop their advocacy skills, and it helps students develop an understanding about the importance of structure – both useful tools they can take with them to their school back home.

Academic growth. For most students who have a learning difference attending a camp specialized for them, it can be the first time they have been on a level playing field. For our campers, the classroom can be a stressful place. It may be a place where they feel isolated, frustrated and unsuccessful. GSSP classrooms developed into a place where they feel welcomed, challenged, and feeling of belonging. GSSP helps students identify their strengths and how to use those strengths to their advantage. Our program encourages students to embrace their unique learning styles, and we try to teach each student the way they learn best. With small class sizes, campers are able to get the one on one attention they need.

New found talents. Camp acts as a fresh start for our students. Students can participate in activities that might not be available to them at their own school due to lack of resources or ineligibility because of their school work. At camp, we want kids to try something new every day, such as soccer, basketball, lacrosse, rugby, dodgeball, and archery, as well as Gaga Ball, creek walks, arts and crafts, Lego robots, and the ever-popular Slip ‘N Slide.

“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 Schools five-week summer program please visit