Extended School Year Services for Students with Disabilities: What are They and How do Students Receive Them?

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Many students regress academically to some degree during the summer months. Studies have shown that students with disabilities regress at a greater rate than do typical children, and those with disabilities take longer to recoup, or regain, skills. The skills that are lost do not just include academic skills, but social and physical skills. For these reasons, extended school year services are available if determined they are needed to further the education of students with disabilities.

How to Obtain Summer Services

These are free, individualized special education services that are a part of a student’s free appropriate public education mandated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The services are provided beyond a school district’s school year and can also be provided during shorter school breaks, such as winter and spring breaks. Extended services provided during the summer break differ from summer school or enrichment programs and usually do not reflect a student’s entire educational program. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and/or speech therapy, for example, may be needed during school breaks to improve needed skills.

A student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team determines the eligibility for such services. The services provided must be in accordance with the student’s IEP and adhere to the standards of the state’s education agency. To determine eligibility, the IEP team must consider whether a student’s educational gains be threatened if he or she does not receive extended services. In other words, will a child lose critical academic, physical, or social skills during the break without services? If so, will excessive recoupment be needed for the child to regain these skills? In answering these questions, the IEP team should consider:

  • Type and degree of disability;
  • The student’s behavior and physical needs;
  • The extent to which skills will be lost;
  • Time needed to relearn skills;
  • Rate at which the student learns;
  • The student’s emerging skills or critical opportunities, and;
  • Parents’ availability and willingness to support and reinforce the child’s learning.

Once an IEP team determines if a student qualifies for extended school year services, these services must be written into the IEP. The types of services, specific goals and benchmarks, as well as the frequency and duration of service, should be identified, too. Keep in mind that services will vary in intensity, location, and length of time, depending on the student’s individual needs. The appropriate services and settings for each student will be determined by the IEP team.

Parents have to right to request an IEP meeting specifically for the purpose of determining service eligibility for their child, if necessary. A copy of the extended services guidelines can be obtained from the school district or state, and parents should become familiar with these guidelines. Teachers, therapists, and special education personnel should attend the meeting. Parents should be prepared to discuss list any factors that should be considered when the IEP team determines the need for extended school year services.