If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you might be wondering if he can receive special education services during the summer. These services are known as extended school year (ESY) services and are an option for some students. Here’s what you should know about ESY services.
What is ESY?
ESY services are not the same thing as summer school. They’re specialized instruction or related services that are part of your child’s IEP. If your child receives ESY services, they’re at no cost to you, under FAPE.
ESY services are provided when school’s not typically in session. That’s often during the summer. But for some kids it can also be during other extended breaks, like winter vacation.
The services are individualized to help each child maintain his skills and not lose the progress he’s made toward his goals. For some kids, this may mean one-on-one tutoring. For others it may be a few sessions of occupational therapy or speech therapy each week. What ESY looks like for your child is a decision made by his IEP team.
Who is eligible for ESY?
ESY isn’t guaranteed for all students who have IEPs. (And not all kids with IEPs need it.) The Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act lets each state or school district set its own rules for eligibility. So the standards vary from place to place.
In many states, kids with learning and thinking differences are unlikely to get ESY services. But it’s important to check with your state’s department of education. It can tell you what the standards are where you live.
IDEA does say that schools can’t limit ESY services to kids with certain issues. For example, a school can’t decide to not give services to kids with dysgraphia. It also can’t give services only to kids with autism spectrum disorder, for instance.
What does an IEP team consider to figure out if ESY services are needed?
If your child is eligible, his IEP team may talk about getting him ESY services. The main issues the team looks at are regression (losing skills) and recoupment (the time needed to relearn skills). The questions the team considers are:
Will your child lose critical skills without continued support and teaching?
Will it take a long time for him to regain those skills—longer than it would take a child without a learning difference?
If your child has a history of regressing and struggling to relearn, his IEP team will take that into account. If there’s no data, it can be harder to make a decision. But there are some questions the team may ask to help predict how likely he is to regress. These include:
Has your child had difficulty retaining skills over shorter breaks?
Does your child have known issues with working memory?
Does your child need continual reinforcement to keep his skills during the regular school year?
Does your child have behavior issues that get in the way of learning during the school year? Will that be a problem next year without continued support over the summer?
Is your child making steady progress toward meeting his IEP goals? And will a break in services threaten that progress?
Is your child just beginning to master a critical skill, such as learning to read?
How can kids get help during the summer?
Even though not all kids are eligible for ESY services, every IEP team should discuss the option. If you think your child might need ESY, bring it up at your child’s next meeting.
You might also ask the team to get your child’s teachers to assess any regression or recoupment issues your child has after the shorter school breaks during the year. It’s also helpful to make sure your child is assessed after summer breaks. That can help the team plan for the next summer.