Summer School Speech Therapy
Unless your child regularly sees a private speech-language pathologist (SLP) in addition to his school SLP, you’re probably wondering how to keep him in speech therapy sessions throughout the summer. Of course, there are plenty of communication-related activities that you can do with your child yourself, whether you’re planning to stay at home for the summer or hit the road and take a volunteer vacation. (Check out later posts this week for fun ideas for summer speech therapy.) Another option is to request extended school year (ESY) services.
ESY services refer to any special education services that are provided when school is in recess. Covered services, such as speech therapy, only include those that are necessary for a child to receive a free, appropriate public education (FAPE). These services must also be customized to that child’s individual needs – just like his Individualized Education Program (IEP). ESY services are required to conform to the child’s IEP and they must be provided at no cost to the parents.
Benefits and Drawbacks
If your child qualifies for ESY services, he may continue to work with his school speech therapist. This provides your child with a structured environment to facilitate learning. Some ESY programs also include community activities; others offer a home-based approach with school staff acting as consultants.
However, before you start jumping for joy, there are some limitations. ESY services will not necessarily cover all parts of a child’s IEP; these services will only address areas that are necessary to complete the requirements of a FAPE. Many children will not qualify for ESY services at all. These programs are only available for children who will regress during the school break if they do not receive services. ESY services are only intended to maintain the child’s skills, rather than to introduce new skills. ESY is also not available solely because a child failed to meet his IEP goals during the school year.
How to Request ESY Services
Some school districts may automatically bring up the issue of ESY services in an IEP meeting. However, it’s best to assume that your child’s school won’t. Be proactive. Request an IEP meeting to discuss ESY services. Prior to the meeting, read your state’s regulations regarding ESY. Request a written copy of the school district’s ESY policies. Meet with your child’s school SLP to discuss whether he might regress in one or more skill areas during an extended break. You might also bring your child to a private SLP to get a second opinion.
During the IEP meeting, discuss how an interruption in speech therapy will result in a regression of skills. Be specific, if possible. For example, if your child has previously “lost” vocabulary words that he had learned, state this. If you noticed during previous school vacations that your child became less vocal, state this. Discuss your child’s SLP’s opinion on this issue. Discuss how a regression of skills will affect your child’s academic performance. The IEP team will also consider your family’s ability to work with the child at home. To a lesser degree, they may also consider whether your child met his IEP objectives during the school year.
The IEP team considers multiple factors when determining whether a child is eligible for ESY services. If the team decides against granting ESY and you strongly believe that your child does qualify, you have the same procedural safeguards as with other IEP issues. You may request mediation or a due process hearing, for example. Check the conclusion of the blog post on the Spectrum Family Advocacy website for illegal reasons to deny a child ESY services.