The National Research Council (NRC) in Educating Children with Autism recommends early intervention services for a minimum of 25 hours per week for 12 months a year. Are your child’s services year-round? Under the law, if your child needs a certain service, such as speech and language, the school must provide the service during the extended school year.
According to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) regulations, Extended School Year Services (ESY) encompass services provided by the local educational agency when school is not in session. Because students often regress particularly during summer months, these services are vital for students to make educational progress. However, ESY does not only pertain to summer; it can also include days such as weekends, holidays, spring and winter breaks.
For students with an IEP, a free appropriate education plan may also include summer enrichment programs at no cost to the parents. Summer camps, tutoring, home programs, life skills, speech and language, occupational therapy, and vocational programs are just some of the many options available to parents with children who qualify for special education.
Who determines which ESY services would benefit a student?
The IEP team decides which services are appropriate and the duration of those services. As part of the IEP team, parents have the right to request a due process hearing at any time to discuss ESY options. Determination regarding eligibility is based solely on each student’s unique educational needs. It is illegal to base eligibility on district funding, administrative convenience, or the availability of service providers. The criteria for ESY services are based solely on a child’s individual need as identified in the IEP.
At what age does a child quality for ESY services?
Children with disabilities who turn three during summer months must be provided with ESY services; however, determination of need must be made as part of the IEP process. Eligibility is based on individual needs.
How does a child qualify for ESY?
“Regression-recoupment analysis is not the only factor used to determine the necessity of a structured summer program.” Other factor may include the degree of impairment, the ability of parents to provide educational structure at home, the child’s rate of progress, the child’s behavior and physical problems, and a child’s vocational needs. Qualifying for ESY is not based solely on retrospective data such as past regression and rate of recoupment. It is also based on “predictive data,” based on the opinion of professionals in consultation with the child’s parents as well as circumstantial considerations of the child’s home and neighborhood.
Can a Behavior Analyst help a child receive ESY services?
Yes, a certified behavior analyst is an excellent advocate when seeking ESY services for your child, because an expert’s opinion is taken into consideration when demonstrating predictive regression. Showing of actual regression is not required; the need for ESY services may be established by expert testimony based on a professional individual evaluation. The mere fact of likely regression is not sufficient. Rather, ESY services are required under the IDEA only when such regression will “substantially thwart the goal of meaningful progress.” A behavior analyst is an excellent resource because he or she can help an IEP team determine eligibility for ESY services by using data to demonstrate the likelihood of regression, which would jeopardize the student’s ability to make educational progress. Because the “degree of progress” is a determining factor, a behavior analyst can testify if progress is slow, demonstrating that the student may need ESY services in order to continue to make progress in the future.
Other factors, which determine eligibility for ESY, are interfering behaviors. If a student’s behavior has an impact on his or her ability to make educational progress, he or she may qualify for ESY. Data collected by a behavior analyst can communicate effectively how a child’s behavior may be hindering educational progress. This information is crucial to help determine eligibility for ESY services.
How to build a case for ESY services?
- Make sure your child’s IEP contains measurable goals and objectives, because the decision regarding eligibility for ESY services is based on data reflecting a student’s progress.
- Be sure the IEP goals reflect a starting point and a proposed ending point. That means they’re measurable.
- Take notes. It’s crucial to document insufficient data collection or the student’s lack of progress. If a parent has a concern or an observation, they can ask that their points be added to the IEP minutes. Documentation is essential if a parent chooses to appeal an IEP team decision regarding ESY services.
- In accord with 34 C.F.R. 502, parents have the right to obtain an independent evaluation at public expense if they disagree with an evaluation done or obtained by the school system. If the school system believes its evaluation is appropriate and refuses to fund the independent evaluation, the school system must initiate a due process hearing to show that its evaluation is appropriate.
- Parents always have the right to obtain an independent evaluation at their own expense. If they do so, the IEP team must consider the results of the evaluation but is not required to adopt the results. In situations in which the team does rely on the results or recommendations of the privately-funded independent evaluation, families should consider seeking reimbursement from the school system. Failure of the IEP team to consider an independent evaluation constitutes a procedural violation of the IDEA.
What other questions should a parent ask when seeking ESY services for their child?
- Are the teachers and service providers in the ESY program qualified?
- What are the dates of the service?
- What are the goals and objectives?
- Is there before and after testing? Documentation/ Data is important to record the child’s progress.
Extended School Year Services
Sherman, David A. Autism: Asserting Your Child’s Right to a Special Education. 2007.