Academic Regression in School What You Need to Know as a Parent

Child suffering from academic regression sitting at her desk in class at school after a long school break.

Children love any school break…

The problem is children tend to have academic regression over these long breaks. 

Academic regression is an educational term used to describe when children have a setback or regress in a skill they have developed or mastered. Children with special needs are especially vulnerable to regression. 


Academic Regression in School What You Need to Know as a Parent 

Maintaining competency in multiple skills requires shaping over time once a child has reached mastery. For example, requiring a child to complete math word problems supports reading comprehension and reinforcing math concepts. 

When a disruption occurs, skills can wane, leaving the child feeling frustrated and unmotivated. The Pandemic has left many special needs children with gaps in their learning and a need for other means of preserving special skills that have regressed or become lost. 


What Causes Setbacks

Parents don’t always recognize specific academic regression in their child, and it is even harder to diagnose what is causing it. There are typical triggers that lead to regression.

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Academic Regression Triggers To Look Out For:

  • The skill in question has been mastered but has not been generalized using novel stimuli
  • A new behavior is interfering with the child’s ability to make progress in other skill areas
  • Reinforcement not being effective anymore, which has led to decreased motivation
  • A change in the child’s routine or an extended interruption in educational services
  • An extended illness or poor attendance
  • Life changes like a divorce, a new baby, or a move to a new home

Academic Regression Can Lead to More Setbacks

A child’s self-esteem is affected when they regress in previously mastered skill areas. The impact of this self-doubt can lead to regression in other skill areas. 

For instance, a child regressing in his or her math concepts may start wetting the bed at night even though they have been toilet trained for several years.  

When parents can predict what might cause their child to regress, intervening before the situation becomes a crisis is less challenging. 

There are signs that your child might be academically regressing. But keep in mind that he may be engaging in behaviors that are symptoms of regression in other skill areas as well. 


Here are some examples of academic regression to be aware of:

  • Refusals to begin or complete schoolwork
  • A decline in speech gains
  • An upsurge in tantrums
  • An increase in aggressive or impulsive behaviors
  • Increased anxiety
  • Difficulty with previously mastered skills such as toilet training
  • A noticeable change in sleeping or eating patterns 
  • The emergence of behavior such as pacing, hand flapping, etc 

How Do You Handle a Child’s Regression?

When you identify that your child has regressed, your first step is to devise a plan to address the child’s specific needs. It would be best if you got assistance from your child’s: 

  • Teachers
  • Counselors
  • Behavior specialists
  • Therapists 

These professionals can help parents form the most well-rounded plan to support the diverse needs of each child. 

Online tutoring is one way children with gaps in their learning can progress. The Pandemic has required teachers, parents, and students to acquire technological proficiencies over the past year. 



Additional Resources to Help Your Child at Home

There are many activities you can do over the school break to help prevent regression. Check out our other resources below.

What activities have you tried? Let us know in the comments.

Here are additional ideas of fun activities: 


Do you have a child that needs one on one assistance?  

We offer one-on-one special education tutoring that can be done from anywhere the student is! Why? Because our special education experts conduct their sessions online!

Get started with a free consultation today!


Child suffering from academic regression sitting at her desk in class at school after a long school break.
Academic regression in kids is real, and it can set them back in their academic journey! Here is what you need to know as a parent.

Michelle Mayes

Michelle Mayes

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