By Saskia Nilsen, M.A. Learning Specialist and RITES advocate
Don’t be fooled – if your child has a documented learning difference, your child probably does qualify for Extended School Year!
Around this time of year, many parents of kids with IEPs are often told that their child does not qualify for Extended School Year (ESY) without a team meeting to discuss the qualifying criteria. What can you do? First, ask what criteria was used to make this this determination and request that they put it in writing. This is often enough to get the school to reconsider. Just because your child is not expected to regress academically does not mean that ESY programming is not needed.
Many parents are not aware that ESY is not just summer programming – it refers to anything outside the normal school day during the school year and when regular school is not in session. It can include tutoring, summer camps, recreation programs, job training or coaching, etc. Many students might not regress academically over the summer, but rather behaviorally or socially. A major example of a need for ESY is when a student has trouble with transitions coming back to school after breaks and adjusting to school routines. When a school is determining eligibility for ESY, they should be considering or focusing on several potential factors, including:
- retaining skills
- emerging skills
- crucial skills
- interfering problems
- nature and severity of disability
- lack of progress in a specific area of curriculum
- ability of parents to provide support needed in home
- rate of progress
- availability of alternative services and special circumstances
Regression can simply be the lack of exhibition of a skill or behavior at the same consistency previously demonstrated. For more details on each of these criteria, the blog A Day In Our Shoes by Lisa Lightner has excellent, detailed explanations of ESY and descriptions of the various criteria, along with expert advice.
Qualifying for ESY is the first step in making sure the summer programming is appropriate for your child’s needs.
Be aware of how the program is structured and what it will address. Often, all the kids of a certain age are put together for the summer, regardless of their needs and only one aspect, such as particular academic remediation, is offered.
Don’t settle for “this is the only ESY program we offer.” The district is required to provide appropriate programming for your child, free of cost to you as a parent. If your child has an IEP, you will need to make sure that all of these services, accommodations and goals are addressed over the summer through the programming planned by the district for your child. If you feel it is not possible to do this in the number of days per week allotted for ESY (most often 2 out of 5) or through the type of program offered, raise this as a parental concern verbally in the meeting and again in writing.
The best way to make ESY a positive experience for your child is to contact the teacher assigned as soon as possible and start by filling them in on the top three to five things they need to know about your child that they might not get from reading the IEP. Letting them know what your goals for the summer are and that you are available as a resource can help make a smoother transition to summer programming.