Overcoming Roadblocks to ESY Services – A Success Story

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Christine writes that her 5th grade son, Alex, has high-functioning autism and average cognitive abilities. He has not met his IEP reading goal in over 2 years.

The school does not use standardized measures to track his progress and has been giving him average grades. He reads 2 years or more below grade level, yet the school gives him average grades.

We were clueless and didn’t notice.

We Pushed for Significant Change

This year, we got a great comprehensive evaluation from an independent evaluator.

For the next school year, we’ve pushed for a significant change and had it written into the IEP:

  • increase in reading instruction
  • DIBELS fluency measures
  • a change of reading program (with unfortunately under-trained teachers, but we’ll save that for another letter).

Against our advice, the school has set the reading goal unrealistically high. Apparently, they are optimistic!

We Requested ESY

We wanted our son to get some reading help over the summer to try to reach this goal. The school district said summer school did not meet our son’s needs.

I started researching Extended School Year (ESY) regulations.

Before our third and final IEP meeting of the season, we wrote twice via email and requested the school add Extended School Year (ESY) services to the agenda.

The emailed reply was: “Yes, I will add ESY. However, I believe we would all agree that ESY does not meet Alex’s needs. It is generally offered to the DD and DLP students, not resource students.”

We Did Our Research

We’ve read www.wrightslaw.com and many other fine websites and books. We know the school’s reasoning is contrary to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004) for two reasons.

  • Determination about ESY is a team decision
  • ESY cannot be limited to particular categories of disability or types of service

In spite of what the school said, they did not add ESY to the agenda before the meeting.

When the meeting began, we asked the school again to add ESY to the agenda. The general feeling in the room was exasperation.

Finally, they added ESY as the last item.

When ESY came up, the school told us again that Alex didn’t qualify for these services. The school does not offer ESY to a resource student. The summer school reading program is the same program that is currently failing Alex.

We Navigated Around the Roadblocks

I then made my prepared and practiced statement:

  1. Multiple unmet IEP yearly goals show that Alex is making little progress in reading.
  2. Last summer’s regression/recoupment measured by the school was demonstrated in the WPM rates.
  3. Serious regression in reading over the summer and probable slow recoupment is again likely.
  4. Alex’s reading deficits affect his learning in other subjects.
  5. As he gets older, it is less likely that Alex will catch up to his peers in reading.

“Therefore, we propose that Alex see a reading tutor 2 or 3 times per week for 6 weeks over the summer at the district’s expense.”

The room became very quiet. The coordinator and facilitator tried to argue with us.

I told them, “It’ says that you can’t deny ESY based on category of disability or type of service.” They responded, “I don’t know what “It” is you are reading.”

We handed them a copy of our state’s ESY memo. (http://www.isbe.state.il.us/spec-ed/pdfs/memo_esy_01.pdf)

“Oh, that,” they replied.

I told them I would like to hear what the rest of the team thought. We’ve found this is a very useful technique. Not everyone in the room is a roadblock; most of them just won’t speak up.

Finally, our son’s regular ed teacher said she thought tutoring was a good idea. Then the assistive technology person agreed, and…

We were on our way!

The school has committed to and agreed to pay for tutoring for the summer as extended school year services.

What ESY Looks Like

Thank you for describing what ESY looks like – a critical chapter for families. – Patty Kishi, Vice-President, Autism Bridges Maui

“The school may not unilaterally limit ESY services to a set number of days or hours. ESY services cannot be limited because of financial resources of the school or for administrative convenience.”

Learn more about ESY from Wrightslaw: All About IEPs, Chapter 12: Extended School Year (ESY) Services.  Get your copy today!

  1. This is GREAT! Here are some of the things you did RIGHT that really influenced the outcome:
    • You got advocacy information (Wrightslaw and other great sites)
    • You got your state’s information and memos (“Oh. That.”)
    • You built team, asking for the input of other team members. At that point, you were not alone in recognizing the unmet needs.
    • You kept your cool.
    • You were willing to focus on the priority issue, putting training for teachers off until the tutoring was in place.

    These are some of the techniques that you can utilize for future issues, but you are now less likely to meet resistance. Also, remember to thank the members who spoke up and recognize the entire team as your son’s progress starts to show. This also will increase future success.

    Job well done!

  2. I second that comment! Great job getting educated on the law, and your tactful data-driven approach with the school’s team.

    Just some general advice, anytime a school district indicates a certain accommodation, modification, service, support, ESY, really anything is only for a certain disability or eligibility they really just jumped into hot water.

    The instant supports become dependent on the label the I is lost in IEP. Everything is individualized to your child not an eligibility label, don’t ever let a school tell you otherwise. It is true that lots of supports may favor certain eligibility categories, such as adaptive or life-skills instruction for kids with intellectual or cognitive disabilities, but that certainly doesn’t mean kids with differing eligibility cannot show an individual need for such goals in an IEP.

  3. Good job doing your research and fighting for what you thought was right for your child. Also thank you for all the resources you have mentioned in this post. I hope you don’t mind that we spread it around.

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