What Does “ESY” Really Stand for in Special Education?

Discover How Related Services in Summer Benefit Students and You

what does esy stand for in special educationI’m writing these words in mid-February. Local meteorologists predict snow and ice for tomorrow. I’m longing for the sun’s warm rays and the energy that seems to come naturally with longer daylight hours.

Fortunately, those months will be here before we know it. I’m especially reminded of that fact as the special education teams in my school plan for ESY.

What does ESY stand for in special education? Well, it’s the acronym for “Extended School Year.” But as clinicians who work with Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS) discover, and as I’ll explain, ESY actually stands for a lot more.

What Are Extended School Year Services?

The Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN) defines ESY this way:

Extended School Year (ESY) services are special education and related services provided to students with disabilities beyond the regular 180-day school year.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal special education law, says that school districts, intermediate units, and charter schools must provide extended school year services if a student needs these services to receive a free appropriate public education (FAPE). In some cases, interruptions in the school schedule, such as summer break, will result in children with disabilities losing many of their basic skills and taking a long time to get those skills back once school begins again.

ESY services are provided during breaks in the educational schedule to prevent this loss.

In special education, ESY programs apply not only to academics but also such related services as occupational therapy (OT), speech-language pathology (SLP), physical therapy (PT) and others. Special education departments determine on a case-by-case basis whether a child’s IEP makes him or her eligible for ESY services.

Personal Experience as an ESY Provider

In my public school district, ESY provides services to qualifying students from Kindergarten age through 21 years old. I’ve provided ESY occupational therapy services for the past five years.

what does esy stand for in special educationI personally enjoy this program for a number of reasons—and those reasons are what special education ESY really stands for in my experience.

ESY stands for:

  • Getting a Head Start with New Students

    I find I’m able to meet many of my new school year students over the summer and begin building therapeutic rapport with them before our first day of school. I’m able to learn their interests, strengths, and needs, and start working on their IEP goals. I hope many of them enter the new school year less apprehensive because they already know one familiar face in their new building.

  • Engaging Students in More Varied Activities

    ESY services aim to prevent regression of learned skills over the summer. While we also hope to advance skills and make progress, we feel no pressure to do so. Maintaining gains made during the previous year is our priority. I plan themed activity weeks to help students retain and even strengthen their skills. During the most recent ESY, I planned a “Shark Week” theme. Students worked on their skills and goals in typing, handwriting, self-regulation, cutting, crafting, and more through many different activities. (I’m still singing that “Baby Shark” song…!)

  • Keeping a More Flexible Schedule

    The schedule—oh, the flexibility! ESY demands fewer hours per day and fewer days per week than the normal school year does, so therapists have more time to enjoy a personal life or to pursue additional opportunities. For example, I had time to switch gears and work per diem hours in a skilled nursing facility. Going from making an ocean animal craft with a six-year-old in the morning to teaching a wheelchair-to-shower transfer in the afternoon makes for a very interesting day!

What You Can Gain Providing ESY Services Through PTS

I was both excited and a bit nervous to begin ESY for the first time during my first year as a school-based OT. My clinical supervisor walked me through all the steps and met me on-site multiple times to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Since that time, I’ve developed relationships with teachers I see only during the summer months. I’m now confident and support other therapists as they explore ESY programs for the first time.

If you’re interested in discovering what ESY can stand for in your career, I encourage you to contact PTS. Working in ESY special education programs can be a great opportunity to gain valuable work experience, further develop your therapeutic skills, and make a major impact for good on students’ lives—all without a major commitment of time.

To find out what ESY positions you might be able to fill, call PTS at 610-941-7020, or contact PTS online.

And, until the weather gets better, think sunny thoughts!

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