I find ESY to be one of the most misunderstood areas of the IEP process–there are so many myths about ESY. I also find it to be the area that school personnel seem to know the least about, or have the most incorrect information. I hear the same, common, incorrect myths about ESY every spring.
This is the time of year when parents start to think about ESY. Or, when they should start thinking about ESY. Well, actually you should be thinking about it always, every time you review the IEP. But now is when you get with your team and make ESY decisions.
I find both parents and school staff to be both under-informed and uninformed when it comes to ESY. That being said, a lot of what is out there about ESY precedent has been set with federal case law…and certainly none of us has the time to review it all. It also doesn’t help that many of the specifics of ESY are not clearly defined by either IDEA or state regs. So some of the misunderstandings are understandable.
I thought I would go over the common myths and misconceptions about ESY.
Common Myths about ESY
Myth: ESY is only for regression. If my child is not regressing or at risk of regressing, he/she will not qualify.
Fact: ESY is not only for regression. There are other factors to consider, such as emergence of a new skill. I have outlined all of the criteria in this post, What Every Parent Needs To Know about ESY. If you are told that, please review that post and see what other criteria fits your child. Ask your child’s team leader to show you where it says that regression is the only criteria.
Myth: My child has to attend the canned ESY program that the school offers.
Fact: The child’s ESY program must meet their needs as documented on their IEP. ESY is needs driven, just like the rest of the IEP. If, for example, your child has strong speech/language needs and social skills needs, and the team tells you that during ESY they will not have an SLP or Social Skills Instructor on site….doesn’t sound like it will meet your child’s needs. If your child is at risk of regressing in speech and social skills over the summer, they need those skills maintained over the summer.
Myth: You can always choose a camp of some kind for ESY.
Fact: In some cases, a camp is more appropriate, but not always. In the example given above, if you found a summer camp for your child that was language based and had a rich speech, language and social skills curriculum, it sounds like it would be more appropriate for the child’s needs. But, when looking at camps, you have to ask about the programming. The programming at the camp must meet the specific needs of the child. Furthermore, you also have to demonstrate that the school program will not meet your child’s needs.
Fact: Schools are not required to invite nor require attendance of typical children at ESY. It’s quite simple–schools cannot, and do not, require typical children to attend ESY. Why would they? So, this one gets a little tricky. Many kids have “role modeling typical peers” or something similar as an SDI on their IEP. But it’s very difficult to prove that that one SDI outweighs all the others. Unless you have a strong case for the need to be around typical peers, this is not a slam dunk of an argument.
Myth: ESY is so that my child can progress and catch up to his/her peers.
Fact: Nope. This one is really common. But, schools are not required that the child actually make progress during ESY. They only have to demonstrate that the child did not regress. Now, your child may make progress during ESY. Of course school staff don’t actively prevent kids from progressing. But it’s not a requirement.
Myth: Every child with an IEP gets ESY.
Fact: Nope again. Not everyone gets it. Not everyone who asks for it gets it. Lots of families go to Due Process over it, just like the many other parts of the IEP process. Again, check out the other post linked above and learn all the determining criteria for ESY.
Read also: ESY standards, Wrightslaw.
So, hope this was helpful. Like any other part of the IEP process, stay on top of things, document everything, and have open, honest and professional communication with your school. Check in later this week and I will have a part 2 post on what you can do if you are denied ESY or the ESY placement you wanted.