What happens to your IEP when the school-year ends? Great question! Many kids with IEPs, including kids with CVI, receive extended school year (ESY) services to keep up momentum.
ESY isn’t the same thing as summer school or remedial classes. Think of ESY as an extension of your child’s IEP: These services are individualized, based on your child’s documented needs. With ESY, your child will continue to work toward predetermined goals and objectives.
Just like during the traditional school year, this service is free under FAPE. In general, your educational team might look for substantial proof that your child is vulnerable to regression (losing skills) and has trouble recouping, or relearning, them.
However, it’s important to know that regression isn’t the only criteria for ESY placement. Qualifying for ESY should be based solely around a demonstrated educational need, not simply loss of skill.
Here’s a helpful ESY overview derived from Wrightslaw, a wonderful resource for special education law.
Your child’s ESY placement needs to be based on data. Often, your child’s team might test them on key skills before a school break and after a school break, to see a quantitative pattern. For kids with CVI, these skills can be academic, such as identifying vocabulary words. They can also be day-to-day activities, such as putting away a backpack or navigating a school schedule.
Education advocate Angela Gowans recommends letting your child’s IEP goals and objectives determine what to measure for ESY placement. Sometimes this data-collection plan is written into an IEP. In other cases, “It’s an informal agreement,” says Gowans.
If the regression-recoup agreement is informal, she’ll follow up with an email to confirm the evaluation plan and its parameters: For instance, if your child regresses after a week break and it takes 10 days to recoup skills, it will be flagged.
Remember our mantra: Your child’s plan should be driven by data. Anecdotes don’t entitle you to services. Input from a neuropsychologist or outside evaluator is also helpful. If you obtain a private neuropsych report for your child, ask this person to weigh in on the need for ESY.
Most teams decide on summer services between March to May, so Gowans recommends raising the need for a plan by winter break. If your team pushes back, she encourages parents to take their own data. Document any regression you see, whether it’s speech, communication, ADLs, et cetera. (If you’re having trouble getting ESY services, here’s another helpful primer through Wright’s Law.)
Once ESY services are in place, it’s also important to ask about providers, frequency, and duration. This is tough: Many districts face staffing shortages. But kids with CVI thrive with consistency. If they’ll get a new roster of summer teachers, you deserve to know about credentials and content.
“My go-to questions are: ‘What does [instruction] look like? Who’s providing the service? How many kids are in the program? What are their ages?’” Gowans says.
Be prepared for ambiguity. Sometimes, your team won’t know this information until the last minute. Ask for a deadline. Other times, a general education teacher might be recommended. In this case, Gowans recommends pushing back.
“You don’t have the right to choose the person. But, if the teacher’s not qualified, you definitely have push-back. It has to be a special educator,” she says.
As with so much in CVI, a district might not offer this information readily. Parents need to feel empowered to raise questions, she says. Ask for their experience working with kids with CVI. If you’re dissatisfied, document it in writing to your team, including to your district’s special education director.
It’s also helpful to remember that your child might encounter new summer staff, new summer settings, and new routines, without the familiar provisions of their regular classrooms. Ask the school team about setting up time before ESY begins to preview the new building and rooms, meet the new staff without the hustle and bustle of the first day of ESY, and talk about their new routine and activities.
Remember: ESY isn’t the only answer. Many families opt for therapeutic summer programs or camps, and that’s important, too. So is having fun. Don’t be afraid to take a vacation! Gowans urges parents not to plan their summers around services, even if you’re afraid of regression.
“Don’t feel any guilt about that. It’s your path; it’s your experience. Balance is important,” she says.