ESY: Myth vs. Fact

Did your district tell you the only criteria for qualifying for ESY (Extended School Year Services) is substantial regression?  99% of them do and they are WRONG, according to federal case law and the guidance from our own Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts.  Educate yourself because you might have to educate your team.

At least five clients I work with are all dealing with districts who refuse to look at anything BUT likelihood of substantial regression.  Ironically, all these students have autism and are relatively young.  In none of their cases was the decision made by the team members.  The decision was made by an administrator, and was phrased “this is what we offer”.   In two districts, when the special educators who work with the students attempted to give their opinion on the content and level of ESY, they were completely shut down by their boss. 

I don’t dispute that every child regresses some during long breaks (ie: 2.5 months of summer).  However, students with autism specifically have “one step forward, one step back” profiles to begin with; they require a consistent level of programming year-round.  All the peer-reviewed research states 25 hours/week of services is recommended year-round, and the studies have been around for years.  There is no study, government-funded or privately funded, that offers a vastly differing opinion.

What we do know is that IEP services should be designed to meet a student’s unique needs resulting from their disability.  Can the content of ESY differ from child to child?  It absolutely can and it absolutely should. Why school districts waste taxpayer money on lawyers to fight reasonable requests from families on this issue baffles me.  Today, I have two meetings, in two different districts, about this.  Two other kids are having ESY services mediated.  I have never seen the backlash from districts in regards to this issue I am witnessing this year.  Is it about money?  Perhaps, but spending thousands of dollars on lawyers also cuts into school budgets.

This is a great link from Wrightslaw discussing ESY in greater depth:  http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/esy.index.htm

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