Troy has a late October birthday, so he’ll spend three years total in preschool. In addition, he’s receiving Extended School Year services this summer.
It wasn’t easy trying to convince the school that Troy needed extra help in the summer. Even though Extended School Year (ESY) is a protection under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), many school districts push back when parents request it. ESY is a service designed to help students with disabilities maintain all the skills they learned during the school year. Depending on where you live you may have heard a variation of our school’s argument against ESY:
“ESY is for students who’ve fallen behind. Troy doesn’t need ESY.”
This was the argument Troy’s teacher made the first time I brought up ESY. Being a new mom, and not yet knowledgeable about the law, I acquiesced.
But the summer after Troy’s first year in preschool, I attended a Wright’s Law Seminar. The seminar highlighted special education law and IDEA. ESY came up and it piqued my interest. Peter Wright mentioned that a student doesn’t have to fall behind to get summer support. I also received several special education law books, that confirmed what Wright said.
Year 2 of preschool, I was ready to argue for ESY!
In January, I asked the teacher again about Extended School Year for Troy. She used the same argument as the previous year. Understandably, ESY costs school districts money and time; something that most don’t have. Although I love his teacher and the services Troy had received so far, I wasn’t about to back down.
I made sure I got everything in writing, and I mentioned that by law Troy could receive ESY for “emerging skills” that he had not mastered on his Individualized Education Plan (IEP). I asked that the school begin collecting data to see if Troy in fact needed ESY. The teacher forwarded my email on to the principal. During our IEP meeting I received push back, but they admitted he had not mastered his IEP goals and ESY may be an option.
Secretly, I did a happy dance! It’s not that I’m super excited about Troy spending time at school this summer, but I wanted to set a precedent.
We’re military and move a lot. I wanted to make sure ESY was in his IEP from the very start of his educational career. This might make it easier to get summer services at the next school Troy attends.
Plus, even though Troy is just in preschool, he still needs extra help. I liked the idea of Troy practicing routines, classroom behavior, and working on skills like conversational speech and math in the summer. Extra help in the summer makes inclusion more seamless during the school year.
Then my local Down syndrome mom friends started asking me how I got ESY for Troy. I explained my approach and pretty soon they started asking for ESY services for their child.
We started a local Down syndrome ESY Revolution!
The teachers and administrators realized we were working together. Pretty soon all three students with Down syndrome were grouped together into a cute threesome in my son’s teacher’s class. They’re all working on different skills, but Troy’s teacher can use the group setting to make the summer class more like a real class. It’s worked so far!
Does your child get Extended School Year services? Do you think it’s sufficient and makes a difference in your child’s progress? Let me know about your experience below!