If you are a parent of a special education student and notice it’s hard for your child to get back in the swing of things after the long winter holiday, your child might be a good candidate for extended school year. This is an option for a six week program (or more, if appropriate) to help prevent educational regression. As you approach one of your least favorite meetings of the year—annual review—think of how you can make it work for you. In the Hudson Valley, once-yearly reviews for Special Education Students will start as early as January, so take some time to consider whether your child has shown regression during the recent break, and LET’S DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

To consider if a student regresses, educators look at how long it takes a student to be retaught the information they knew during the school year once they return from summer break. If the student needs substantial remediation to get to where they were the previous June, they should be offered a summer program. Teachers will look at a long weekend, holiday breaks or a few days of illness as an indicator of how the child would do at home without educational supports for the summer.  Some districts only look at regression, but many other factors can be considered when weighing if a summer program is needed. When a teacher notes that a skill is only just emerging, that student can also be considered for an extended school year.

Is your child doing okay with their academics but they have severe behavioral issues when they miss school? Your child’s academic progress may very well be hindered by behavioral regression. Many students struggle after their routine is changed over the weekend or a holiday. A teacher might see a negative behavior they thought was extinguished emerge after a long break. These kind of students benefit from keeping the structure of school, or come September they might have to start from scratch on their behavior programs. That being said, a great behavior plan that was effective in the classroom setting during the school year will no longer help manage those negative behaviors if the student took too long of a hiatus.

There are many options for students requiring an extended school year. Students may go to a county center based summer program. This is a simple way for a district to meet the minimal requirements to prevent regression. Many districts however will try to develop programs in their home schools, working with a staff that knows the student best. Itinerant consultant teacher services for students with unique needs can also be utilized. Our children can be very successful working on goals in an inclusive setting. Maybe consider letting your child attend one of the wonderful camps that are so abundant in the Hudson Valley. Teachers can work closely with camp staff to fully include the camper in all aspect of the camp community. Teachers can opt to work with the student at home or camp on academics. Communication skills can be improved by immersing students with language rich campers. Social skills can emerge when a camp program includes special needs students. My suggestion would be start early when evaluating if your special needs child would benefit from extended school year.  A better way to build a bridge for a good school year is to have it start with an enriching summer experience. 

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