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Extended school year services can help students who regress during school breaks

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Sandra has a learning disability. She is in 4th grade but reads at a 2nd grade level. Sandra can’t make reasonable progress in closing the gap because she forgets what she has learned during the long summer break.

Juan is eight years old and has severe autism. He is easily distracted and frustrated. If Juan’s behaviors are not under control, not much learning occurs. During the school year Juan’s behaviors gradually improve and he starts to make progress in self-control and academic learning. After each long school vacation, Juan’s progress disappears. When he returns to school, he has to begin all over again.

Tamika, who is four, has cognitive and behavioral delays. Her preschool early intervention program focuses on self-help skills. Early intervention services are provided over a 12-month period with breaks of varying lengths up to four weeks. Tamika acquires skills slowly, and loses them whenever a break lasts longer than two weeks.

Which of these children is eligible for extended school year (ESY) services during the breaks in their school programs?

Probably all of them.

Children who lose skills or behaviors during program breaks that relate to goals or objectives in their IEPs (called “regression”) and who have difficulty catching up (called “recoupment”) are eligible for ESY.

Let’s debunk some myths about ESY:

Myth #1: ESY is limited to children with “severe” disabilities.

While it is true that the IEP team must pay particular attention to children with certain severe disabilities, IEP teams may not limit their consideration of the need for ESY services to children with particular types of disabilities or particular IEP goals.

Myth #2: School districts can set a fixed type and amount of special education and related services for all children who are ESY-eligible.

School districts can develop a “standard” ESY program that will work for most children. But decisions about how much and what type of special education and related services should be included in a child’s ESY program – and what the program goals should be – must be determined by the IEP team (which includes the parents) based on each child’s needs.

The team’s decisions must be listed in the ESY section of the child’s IEP. That section should focus on the parts of the student’s IEP that are particularly vulnerable to regression, and the amount of services should be enough to keep the regression from occurring.

If the family does not agree with a school district’s decision about whether the child is ESY-eligible or what kind of ESY program the child needs, the family can ask the school district for mediation or request a special education hearing.

Myth #3: There are no deadlines for schools to decide whether the child is ESY-eligible and what kind of services she should get.

For children with certain severe disabilities, the deadline for the IEP review to decide whether the child is ESY-eligible is February 28 of each school year. March 31 is the deadline to issue the written notice (called a NOREP) to the family. For all other children with disabilities, decisions about ESY eligibility are part of the annual IEP review, or a parent can request an IEP meeting to determine ESY eligibility at any time.

For more details on ESY programs, visit www.elcpa.org/pubs/pubs_disabilities.html.

Next edition: ESY programs in Philadelphia

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