To ESY or not to ESY? Another Perspective on Extended School Year Services

by | May 30, 2017 | P2P

A sign with an arrow pointing to the left says This Way Street. An arrow pointing to the right says That Way Boulevard. How do you choose ESY or no ESY?

To ESY or Not to ESY?  Another perspective on Extended School Year!

Extended School Year (ESY):  The special education program and services that are provided during school breaks that support students with disabilities to maintain skills. 

 There are many, many families who choose an extended school year for their children, and for many different reasons.  If your child is eligible and you desire it, as a parent you have a choice to make!  To ESY or not to ESY?

For our family, though our children were eligible for ESY since pre-school and throughout their school careers, we always chose NOT to attend the program.

Image description: A picture of different color chairs on a beach with the ocean in the background. The caption says Summer Vacation

Summer has been the time that our family has really tried to be more typical.

When our children were home, I didn’t usually work in the summer, or I have had jobs with flexibility where I could reduce my hours or work from home.  So obviously, having mom available at home is what has enabled us to do this.



Summer is when we sent the kids to camp-day camp when they were pre-school, moving up to overnight camps as it became more age appropriate. Sometimes these have been camps for children with special needs, but more often than not, we’ve adapted regular programs for them. This involved some creativity on our part and collaboration with programs as my son, Aaron has significant cognitive and physical disabilities and my daughter, Deidra is legally blind, and has health and mental health issues.

Image description: A picture of young men and women. Some are riding horses and some are leading the horses. In the background are summer camp grounds.

You do need to know it took some wheedling, cajoling, and encouraging of the staff to convince them that they were good and qualified to work with our kids-they weren’t necessarily to start with, but I wasn’t about to let them know that! And by the time the camps were done, they certainly could handle much more than to begin with.

Summer was also the time when we could work on other skills at a more leisurely pace.  Depending on the summer, we would focus on physical skills, potty training, social or academic skills , but not usually all at the same time.

Image description: A picture of a family with a mother, father and two young boys. They are sitting on a blanket with a picnic at a summer concert.

We also used summer to do fun family activities:  take picnic lunches or picnic suppers, free concerts in the parks and community theater.  This meant that Mom and Dad got a little piece of culture in their lives and the kids learned to appreciate lots of different kinds of music or other performances.  Since it’s outside, while they are on that learning curve of when to be quiet and when to talk, no one minds, because we aren’t sitting in a stuffy concert hall.

We are fortunate in Colorado to have great family activities available!  We went to play grounds (search here for accessible parks and playgrounds), spent time with typical kids, solidified our friendships with other kids with disabilities, went camping as a family, took vacations, visited relatives, learned to swim and hung out at the pool.

Did the kids regress over the summer? Sure, a little. But the break from routine and the opportunity to try new things and just enjoy summer-looking for butterflies, touching dandelions under our chins, smelling the flowers, feeling ants crawl over our legs (a challenge for kids with SI issues!), burying each other in the sand was invaluable for our family!

Image description: A picture of a family hiking in the woods. On the left is a teenage boy standing, a young boy who uses a wheelchair. In the center is a woman standing. On the right is a man standing behind another young person who is using a wheelchair.

I won’t deny, it took some effort and planning and work on my part, but I wouldn’t trade those times for anything.  I was always more than ready to send my kids back by the time school starts again.

So, if you think your child really needs ESY, and would be harmed without it, go for it!

But if you want to take another perspective, look at summer (or other school break times) as an adventure — a chance to see who your child is as a family member, a member of the community, a friend, a sibling, a person outside of the school setting. Don’t be afraid to fail. Not all of our summer activities have been successful, but we learned from each of them.

For more information on Extended School Year Services:

Let’s continue this conversation!  What are your plans for summer with your family?  What activities are you looking forward to?  Do you need ideas for accommodations for your son or daughter? 

Share with us by emailing  Not a P2P Member?  Join us today!

Renee is a founding member of Parent to Parent of Colorado and currently serves as our Outreach and Membership Coordinator. She and her family escape during the summer to the Colorado mountains!



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