Saturday, December 29, 2012

ESY article in Special Ed Connection

Special Ed Connection:Key points:
· Take data before, after breaks to uncover regression-recoupment issues
· Convene IEP meeting to discuss parents' ESY request
· Alert parents to summer programs, camps available in community
Follow 3 tips to respond to parents' requests for ESY services
Holiday and winter breaks are fast approaching and now is the time to collect data to inform ESY decisions.
Data collected before and after school breaks helped the district in a recent Rhode Island case appropriately determine that a student with ADHD, pervasive developmental disorder, and behavioral difficulties did not need ESY services.
In East Providence School Department, 59 IDELR 240 (SEA RI 2012), the student's mother asserted that her child needed ESY services to avoid behavioral regression. But the regression the mother observed while the student was on breaks did not appear to jeopardize the child's progress at school, the independent hearing officer noted.
The student's occupational therapist explained that the district considered the student's need for ESY by looking at his progress after school vacations and long weekends. She asserted that there was no evidence of regression.
Moreover, the IHO noted, the student was identified as having an average rate of learning and quickly adapted to school. The mother claimed the student often became dysregulated and did not want to attend school. However, district documentation reflected teacher observations that the child regulated himself within a few minutes of being in class and had mainstreamed himself with peers without support. Finally, noting that none of the student's service providers recommended ESY services, the IHO concluded the district's decision could stand.
"The family in the case was arguing that the child needed ESY services because he was having problems at home," said Sara Woolverton, director of special education for the Santa Monica-Malibu (Calif.) Unified School District. "I understand that families are in distress and they are looking for whatever help they can get. But schools do have to limit themselves to what the child needs for FAPE and look at whether the child's problems are impacting him in the school environment."
Use data to drive ESY decisions, sources say. When data do not indicate that a child needs ESY services, talk to parents who are looking for help over the summer about what other options are available.
Consider these three tips:

1. Collect data before, after school breaks. Ask staff to collect data a day or two before vacation and a day or two after vacation to uncover regression-recoupment difficulties. "A three-day vacation might not make a huge difference, but pay attention to those one- or two-week vacations," said Woolverton.
The key is to look at whether the student has regressed so much over the school break that it takes longer than the break itself for him to recoup the skill, said Woolverton. For example: On Dec. 21, before the two-week holiday break, Sara was reading 90 words per minute. On Jan. 7, when Sara returned from holiday break, she was reading 85 words per minute. On Jan. 14, Sara was reading 90 words per minute. In this example, Sara would not have regression-recoupment problems because she recouped her skills in an amount of time that was shorter than the break, said Woolverton.
Also, make sure to consider a child's behavioral problems when determining the need for ESY, said parent attorney Hope Kirsch of Kirsch-Goodwin & Kirsch PLLC in Scottsdale, Ariz. "ESY isn't just about academics," she said. "I see more students who have regression-recoupment difficulties with behavioral goals than academic goals, mostly because school provides a very structured environment. It's common for students to regress at home." The question IEP teams must ask is: How quickly does the child recoup his skills, particularly after long school breaks?
Keep in mind that ESY services are for children who need such services for FAPE. "Even if a child has a difficult time at home during school breaks, if he recoups his skills shortly upon returning to school and readapts to the school structure, he likely won't qualify for ESY," said Kirsch.

2. Be sensitive to parents' requests. Parent requests for ESY services can spike during hard economic times, said Woolverton. "I think some of them want a place for their child to go," she said. Nonetheless, IEP teams should always meet to discuss a parent's request for ESY services, even if staff members don't think that the child will qualify, said Kirsch.
"A lot of times, parents end up in my office because there was a breakdown in communication or because they have a feeling that school staff don't care about their child," she said. Show parents that you respect them by convening an IEP meeting to discuss an ESY request, using data to make informed decisions as a team, and discussing their options if the student doesn't qualify for ESY, said Kirsch.

3. Discuss other available options with families. If the district determines that the child doesn't need ESY for FAPE and believes that the parents are looking for help, talk with them about other options that are available, sources say.
"You have to take a firm stand on what the district's limitations are. At the same time, be compassionate and do your best to find resources for parents who do need something additional," said Woolverton.
Alert parents to any summer programs that your district runs. "Our district runs a program that is fee-based, but they don't charge more than it costs to run it," said Woolverton.
There are also free or low-cost summer camps and programs in many communities, said Woolverton. Explore what's available in your area and share your findings with parents. Some options may include summer camps; events hosted by park services, community centers, and public libraries; and programs at local universities. City park services and community centers often offer activities and day camps that are little to no cost, she said.
Public libraries often have story hours and book clubs, or allow kids to come in and read or work on the computer. "I don't recommend that parents leave their children unsupervised if they are too young, so make sure you refer parents to age-appropriate programs," said Woolverton.

December 17, 2012

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