Article Categories Home-and-Family Special-Education

Extended School Year For Special Education Or Summer Recreation Program - Which Is Best?


By: Joann Collins


Is your school district offering a summer recreation program, in stead of extended school year services (ESY), for your child with autism? Do you wonder what to keep in mind as you make the decision? This article will discuss the difference between summer recreation programs, and extended school year services.

Extended school year services (ESY), are special education services, given outside of the regular school year. These services can be given before or after school, or in the summertime. This article will only discuss ESY in the summertime.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), extended school year needs to be given to a child, if they require it to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). A court case Reusch vs Fountain came up with several factors that need to be kept in mind, when determining if a child needs ESY services. These factors are; regression and recoupment, nature and severity of your child's disability, skills that are just being learned (emerging skills), whether the child's behavior interferes with their learning, and any special circumstances that relate to your child.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about ESY and a recreation program:

1. Some school districts are no longer offering ESY, as is required by IDEA. Instead they are offering to pay for private summer recreation programs. If your child needs ESY, and has some of the above factors, they are to receive it from your school district, free of charge, though you may have to fight for it.

2. Most summer recreation programs do not offer academic remediation. If they do, check it out carefully! The program may not be taught by a qualified special education teacher, so it may not be appropriate for your child. Academic remediation is a good reason to ask for ESY, if your child needs it.

3. Even if the summer recreation program is for children with a disability, it may not be appropriate for all children. Check out the daily schedule, talk to the staff, check on staff-child ratio. Find out if a lot of sitting is required. This may be inappropriate for a child with ADHD or autism.

4. Be careful when signing up your child for a summer recreation program, if your child has behavioral difficulty. Years ago, my daughter attended a special recreation camp whose staff was not trained in dealing with inappropriate behavior. Ask lots of questions, see if a positive behavioral system could be put in place for your child. Also discuss how staff will handle inappropriate behavior.

5. Summer recreation programs tend to be unstructured. Some children with disabilities do not do well in an unstructured environment, so be careful. Again, ask a lot of questions, check on the schedule etc.

6. If your child needs life skills or functional training, ESY can provide that training. If your child needs it, bring it up at their annual IEP meeting, and make sure that it is in writing.

By keeping these things in mind, you will be able to make an appropriate decision for your child about extended school year services or a recreation program.

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