In talking to parents of children with disabilities, I’ve realized that answering the question, “where do I begin?” is sometimes the hardest part. Navigating special education can feel like drowning in a sea of acronyms (IEP, RR, PTRE, NOREP, LEA . . .) or climbing an endless mountain of paperwork, or both! For those of you who have a resolution to make 2017 a more organized, successful, and peaceful year, this article series is for you! Month by month, I’ll discuss a way to improve your child’s IEP and give action items to focus your journey. It will still be a mountain, but I hope these tips will provide some trail markers along the way.
What Do I Do if I Disagree with an ESY Proposal?
Your child’s program may include Extended School Year (“ESY”) services, which is continued special education instruction during the summer. Although the most commonly discussed reason for ESY is to prevent regression/recoupment problems, there are actually other reasons for providing ESY. For example, in Pennsylvania, your child may be entitled to ESY even without evidence of regression/recoupment issues if the timing of the interruption in your child’s program would interfere with mastering an important skill, if a skill or behavior is particularly crucial to meet goals of self-sufficiency/independence from caretakers, if the child withdraws from the learning process due to successive interruptions, or if the child has a severe disability. 22 Pa. Code § 14.132. If you believe your child should receive ESY services, you should request the services from the school district or charter school as soon as possible.
What if your child is entitled to ESY services, but the offered program does not seem to meet your child’s needs? Too often, ESY is a single program developed by the school district or charter school that is meant to address the many diverse needs of students with disabilities. Such a program is not individualized to the child, which is neither appropriate nor legal. ESY should include individualized goals, programming based on individual needs, and consideration of the Least Restrictive Environment (“LRE”). If you are reviewing your child’s ESY plan for this summer and you feel that it is not appropriate, you should address or continue to address the issue with the school team.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when analyzing the ESY offer:
1) Are the goals for ESY appropriate (addressing the right areas of need, specific, and measurable)?;
2) Will the offered program address those goals and how?;
3) Does my child have specific medical, transportation, or safety needs which are not covered by the current plan?;
4) Is the provision of related services like speech or occupational therapy appropriate?;
5) Is this program substantially similar to last year’s and, if so, was last year’s program successful?
As always, you should ask a lot of questions to understand how you can move a “no” to a “yes” at your meeting.
Finally, while ESY is a very important resource for your child, remember that you may have access to other resources for summer therapies under Medical Assistance or your insurance provider.
May Action Items:
Request ESY services if your child needs them and does not get them
Request a meeting to review the ESY offering if you feel it is not appropriate
Research and request appropriate private summer programs or camps if they would better meet your child’s needs
Investigate whether you can also receive services from Medical Assistance or your insurance provider