Future Reflections          Winter/Spring 2008

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Extended school year: What does it mean?
Could it be an option for your child?

by Marcia Kelly

Reprinted from the Winter 2007, Volume 30, number 1, issue of Pacesetter, a publication of PACER Center, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota; <www.pacer.org>.

For some children with disabilities, a long break from special education instruction and related services can result in a significant loss in skills. Summer vacation, for example, can be a time when achievements gained during the school year are lost.

A possible solution to helping your child maintain those skills is extended school year services. Unlike summer school, extended school year services are tailored to the needs of the child and support goals established in the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). Designed to help children who are three to twenty-one years old maintain their skill or development levels during long breaks, these services are provided at no cost to the family.

Each year, your IEP team must discuss whether your child needs extended school year services. The team will look at several factors and compare them to the goals specified in your child’s IEP to determine if your child qualifies.

One factor the team will consider is called regression. “It means that when there’s a break in services, your child falls back to a significantly earlier skill level,” says Judy Swett, PACER Center advocate. “For example, before winter break, your child showed progress on a speech goal, such as using longer sentences. After winter break, he was back to using two-word sentences.” Or perhaps the child has a goal in the area of reading and was found to be reading at the fourth-grade level at the end of the school year, but in September he was reading at the third-grade level. Such changes should be documented by the team throughout the year, Swett adds. “This data is essential to determining if your child qualifies for services.”

A related consideration is called recoupment. It refers to how long it takes your child to regain the pre-break skill level. “It should not take longer to regain skills than the length of the break,” Swett says. Your child’s recoupment time should be documented, as well.

Other factors will be considered, too. For example, would a break prevent your child from attaining or keeping skills that allow for personal independence? The skills typically are identified in your child’s IEP and may include such things as being able to dress him or herself, communicate wants and needs, do basic reading and writing, and understand time and money concepts.

As the team looks at your child’s potential need for extended school year services, they also will evaluate such things as:

After weighing all the data, the team will determine if your child qualifies for extended school year services. If so, the team will consider what services and settings would be appropriate. Recommendations can range anywhere from a structured program at a school to community activities and suggestions of things the family can do at home. Some of the options may include support from staff.

If your child does not qualify for services, you have other alternatives. You could, for example, ask your IEP team for suggestion of activities you can do with your child to maintain skills.

Summer is indeed a time for fun and sun. For some children, it can also be an appropriate time to keep skills sharp and give learning a great start in the fall.

Editor’s Note: For more information about extended school years services, and examples of how it fits the specific needs of blind children, see these articles from past issues of Future Reflections:

1. “Extended School Year Services” by Leslie Margolis, Winter/Spring 2005, volume 25, number 1; <http://www.nfb.org/Images/nfb/Publications/fr/fr17/fr05ws18.htm>.
2. “Extended School Year Services (ESY): What the Courts Have Said,” by Rose Kraft, Winter/Spring 2000, volume 19, number 1; <http://www.nfb.org/images/nfb/Publications/fr/fr19/Issue1/f1901pt.htm>.
3. “Who Gets ESY,” Winter/Spring 2000, volume 19, number 1; <http://www.nfb.org/images/nfb/Publications/fr/fr19/Issue1/f1901pt.htm>.

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