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
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
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
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,
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