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ESY For Elementary Students
If you have an elementary school aged child who has a learning or other disability, odds are you are becoming familiar with the multitude of abbreviations used in the public school system: IDEA, IEP, FAPE, LRE and ESY. (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Individualized Education Plan, Fair and Appropriate Public Education, Least Restrictive Environment and Extended School Year) No matter how long you have been aware of your child’s disability, learning to work with the school system to get the services they need is challenging. One of the least understood parts of IDEA is ESY (Extended School Year).
Extended School Year services may be extended to children who have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) and are a high risk of regression (losing skills/knowledge gained the previous year). To ensure FAPE (Fair and Appropriate Public Education), all school districts must make sure that ESY services are available to eligible students. Services may or may not be offered through your local school. Some districts contract services through nearby school districts or private services.
There are no specific guidelines that are used in determining who is eligible for ESY. It is the job of your child’s IEP team to figure out if your child will benefit from ESY. It is a good idea for you too keep track of your child’s progress and regression patterns during extended school breaks as well. It is also important for you to do some research into your state’s and school district’s policies regarding ESY. Services and eligibility can vary greatly from state to state and district to district. The Technical Assistance Alliance provides special education resources for parents of children with disabilities. You can locate their Parent Centers at the website to find out about services in your area.
As with anything, ESY has pro’s and con’s especially when it concerns elementary school aged children. Below is a list of things for you to consider as you decide whether ESY is the right choice for your child.
- If you have witnessed dramatic regression in your child’s studies, behavior or in areas where therapy is required, a strong extended school year program may help your child retain skills. It is important to find out what specific type of program is offered in terms of location, duration, content and instruction.
- ESY can offer a summer routine that many children with disabilities thrive on.
- ESY is free.
- ESY offers a chance for your child to focus on those things without the usual distractions.
- ESY provides a structured way for children to interact with their peers throughout the summer.
- In school districts that are not well-funded, ESY programs can be weak and poorly staffed. As a result, children can come away from such programs further behind than when they started.
- Consider how your child handles change. It is rare for a child to get their regular teacher during ESY. Additionally, it is common practice for school districts to band together and combine their ESY programs. The could spell out additional travel and a new environment.
- Keep in mind that the extended school year is a maintenance program with limited scope. It focuses solely on one or two specific goals laid out in your child’s IEP. ESY is not designed to help your child reach their full potential or to get ahead.
If, doing your own research, you are certain that ESY is right for your child, start talking about it with your child’s IEP team as early in the school year as possible. Even in school districts with healthy budget, spots in the ESY program can be difficult to procure. Specifically ask your child’s teachers to document any regression they see after both short and long breaks. You should do so at home as well. For more details and specific case law that might help you get the extended school year added to your child’s IEP, search through Wright’s Law blog. You’ll find clear explanations and concrete examples. Keep in mind that ESY is a year-by-year program. You will have to repeat this process, starting at the beginning of the school year, every year.
If you are still unsure about ESY, there are other things to consider. Depending on your child’s needs, it might be worthwhile exploring special education homeschool resources. Homeschool blogs and websites and offer a variety of tips for teaching/reinforcing information at home in a cost-effective way. Look in your area for local homeschool groups – many are happy to have a new family join them during the summers for park days, co-ops and other activities.
If you are not confident in your ability to “homeschool” during extended breaks, you might also consider special needs tutoring. Using a tutor offers an affordable, individualized way to keep your child’s skills up during extended breaks from school. Additionally, with the technology boom of the past decade, it’s now easier than ever to find the perfect tutor for your child. The internet allows children to tutor from the comfort of their own home without needing to bring strangers into the house. Find out more about online special education tutoring by discussing your exact needs with a special education expert (Free Consultation).
Lastly, remember that the extended school year is a voluntary program. Even if the program is written into your child’s IEP, the ultimate decision is yours. You know your child best. Sometimes a kid just needs a break and that’s just fine. As you do your own research and get to know your child’s elementary school IEP team, you will know what is right for your child for that year.