365 Health Care

Help Students Retain Skills · Mrs. P’s Specialties


Have you noticed how quickly your students can lose a skill that you were sure they mastered? A student learns to tie a shoe with the OT, then a month later he can’t tie his shoe when it comes untied. Another student seems to have a good understanding of addition, but after moving on to subtraction she can no longer remember how to add. This can happen with any skill that a student learns if they don’t practice it. It’s critical that we have create maintenance programs to prevent significant regression.

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Why A Systematic Approach

Practicing mastered skills is so important for our students. They work very hard to learn something new! To avoid losing that progress, it is imperative that we give them chances to practice the goals they have achieved.

By using a maintenance program, you will be giving each of your students the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned every week and in turn avoid the loss of mastered skills. Implementing this system has led to HUGE reductions in the regression of skills.

Creating a maintenance program in your classroom is an easy way to make sure your students are getting the practice that they need to maintain the skills they’ve learned … you, and your students, will be thankful that you did!

Example of A maintenance program

One place where we use a targeted maintenance program is during our direct instruction stations. During this time we focus on each of the student’s IEP goals. One day each week we only work on practicing the skills that they have already mastered. We call it “Maintenance Monday”, a catchy little way to help us remember to do it every week.

In each student’s folder, where we keep our data grids for his or her goals, we place the data sheets for already mastered skills in one pocket, and the data sheets for the new skills the student is working on in the opposite pocket.

For example, in our concepts center, a student might have mastered expressively identifying capital letters, reading 10 sight words, and sorting 3 colors. Every Monday, we pull out the data sheets for those skills and the student practices doing them. If the data starts to show any regression, we move the maintenance sheet for that goal back to the other pocket and begin working on that skill daily again. So, if suddenly that student isn’t getting all of the uppercase letters correct during Maintenance Monday, we would go back to having him work on identifying uppercase letters every day until he got 100% three days in a row. Then, it would move back to the maintenance pocket of his folder and he would go back to only practicing it once a week.

Tips for creating a maintenance program

  • Maintenance programs or systems should be easy and built into the schedule. You don’t want it to become another item on your to-do list… you want it to be part of your schedule.
  • Train all staff on how to collect the data and to notice changes in data indicating regression. By training staff to spot the changes, it will eliminate wasting your time to check the data every week.
  • Before creating a system, take a critical look at where your students show regression typically. For example, one of my students tends to looks functional skills, but not academic skills when we decrease practice. For him, it isn’t critical to routinely practice mastered academics, but it is critical for him to practice zipping, buttons and snaps weekly or he forgets how to do it.

Creating a maintenance program in your classroom is an easy way to make sure your students are getting the practice that they need to maintain the skills they’ve learned … you, and your students, will be thankful that you did!

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