When Should a Child Receive Extended School Year (ESY) Services?

By Ruth Diaz, Project Director – Parent, Training and Information Center (PTI)

This is a decision for the IEP Team. As a full member of the Team under the law, the parent fully participates in this decision. The Team should discuss and decide whether your child will need ESY services over the summer every year. It is typically discussed at the annual IEP review. If the answer is yes, the Team decides what ESY services he will need.

The ESY decision is based on whether your child’s unique needs require special education and related services longer than the regular school year in order to make meaningful progress in school?

Massachusetts regulations further define the criteria as follows. Has the student demonstrated or is he likely to demonstrate substantial regression in his learning skills if ESY is not provided? And/or will the student have substantial difficulty in relearning such skills if ESY is not provided? In other words, will the student experience a significant drop in knowledge and skills from the interruption in services and/or will it take a lot of time for him to get back to the level he achieved before the break in services?

In deciding whether a child should receive ESY services, the courts have delineated a number of questions. For example, what is the degree of the child’s impairment? Does the child make progress at a slow rate? Does the child regress quickly? Does the child have specific behaviors and/or physical problems that require consistent services? What is the child’s ability to interact with non-disabled children? Do the parents have the ability to provide structure for the child at home? Are there any alternative resources available? What are the vocational and transition needs of the child?

Schools cannot refuse to offer ESY services simply because they do not offer summer school to all students. ESY is different from summer school. ESY services are individualized and based on the child’s unique needs. As with other services in the IEP, ESY services are required by law if your child needs them to making meaningful progress. ESY should be a continuation of IEP services and consistent with your child’s IEP goals and objectives. This does not mean the school has to offer your child all the same services at the same rate as provided during the school year. The decision about the ESY services the child will need over the summer must be made on an individual basis. Based on child’s challenges and learning capacity, the ESY services should be designed to prevent him from losing precious ground over the summer.