Selecting a Summer Camp for Your Special Needs Child
Previous Common Questions About Special Education
With the summer fast approaching, many special needs parents have started to think about what will their child will do this summer? For some students with disabilities, they will be attending ESY or Extended School Year.
Since this is an important part of your child’s IEP, you should know about your rights related to Extended School Year.
What is Extended School Year (ESY)?
ESY services are individualized special education services for students with disabilities that are determined by the IEP team. ESY services are mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in order for your child to receive a free appropriate public education.
According to IDEA,
(1) Each public agency must ensure that extended school year services are available as necessary to provide FAPE.
(2) Extended school year services must be provided only if a child’s IEP team determines, on an individual basis, that the services are necessary for the provision of FAPE to the child.
(3) In implementing the requirements of ESY, a public agency may not—
(i) Limit extended school year services to particular categories of disability; or
(ii) Unilaterally limit the type, amount, or duration of those services.
IDEA further defines ESY as extended school year services in terms of special education and related services that—
(1) Are provided to a child with a disability—
(i) Beyond the normal school year of the public agency;
(ii) In accordance with the child’s IEP; and
(iii) At no cost to the parents of the child; and
(2) ESY also must meet the standards of the State Educational Authority (SEA).
How does this relate to the IEP team?
Since IDEA does not define how the IEP team will determine which child will need ESY in order to receive FAPE, it is up to the IEP team to determine eligibility and services on an individualized basis.
This is when the confusion and/or contention can begin.
Many school districts rely on regression as the sole criteria for the determination of ESY services. However, regression is not the only criteria for students to qualify for ESY. Since there have already been a couple of case laws related to ESY, it has been determined that the IEP team should consider other factors when deciding if the child is eligible for ESY services:
Regression and recoupment – is the child likely to lose critical skills or fail to recover these skills within a reasonable time;
Degree of progress toward IEP goals and objectives;
Emerging skills/breakthrough opportunities – Will a lengthy summer break cause significant problems for a child who is learning a key skill, like reading;
Interfering Behavior – does the child’s behavior interfere with his or her ability to benefit from special education;
Nature and/or severity of disability; and
Special circumstances that interfere with child’s ability to benefit from special education.
All of these factors should be discussed by the IEP team, if applicable.
When reviewing eligibility and services for ESY, remember the IEP team should:
not use one single criteria as a sole qualifying factor;
review whether the child has any new or emerging skills that might be lost during a prolonged time away from school;
review the degree of the child’s disability;
review how much regression the child will have during the time away from school, i.e., any skills and/or abilities that can be lost over the summer break;
review period of recoupment of skills after the summer break, i.e., the amount of time it will take to regain the prior levels of functioning; and
review any factors that will significantly be jeopardized during a prolonged break, such as behavior, life skills and other special circumstances or factors.
In addition, when reviewing eligibility for ESY services, do notforget about related services, such as speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy. These services should also be discussed if they are already a part of your child’s IEP.
Again, ESY services are individualized special education services that are provided for special needs students. Since every state is different, it is important to know your state’s standards for ESY services. If you are in disagreement with the IEP team, you will need to research your state’s standards for better clarification. Many parents are misinformed about ESY and are told that their child does not qualify for services (even before a discussion has taken place). But do not get discouraged and stop there. Always do your own research, as there are many case laws available.