Ahh, summer. The sun is shining, you’re getting outside more, and the kids are home. No more waking up super early, making lunches, getting everyone dressed, and shuttling them off to school. But you notice that Johnny’s speech is getting worse, and he won’t be receiving speech therapy for...nine weeks?
If your child is in a general education class and receives speech therapy at school through an individualized education plan (IEP), chances are he’s not receiving speech therapy during the summer. But he’s not in school, so he can’t receive school-based services, right? Wrong.
Special education and related services are provided to many students during the extended school year (ESY), and they are available to your child if necessary. It’s rare for students in general education classes who receive only speech therapy to qualify for services during the summer, but let’s see if Johnny might need it.
In California, four conditions must be met in order for ESY services to be included in the IEP:
Is the disability likely to continue for a prolonged period of time, or indefinitely?
Will a pause or interruption in services lead to regression, or loss of learned skills?
Does your child have the ability to recoup, or regain the skills he might lose if there is a break from services?
Will the previous three factors make it “impossible or unlikely” that your child will gain independence without ESY services?
Now, before you give up and say “There’s no way Johnny meets those criteria,” let’s consider a few things. First off, it is virtually impossible to prove any of these points about a single child, so the IEP team will be making decisions based on past evidence and speculation. As a school speech therapist, students were constantly surprising me when we came back from summer break. I thought Ashley would make little or no progress in her speech skills over the summer, and she came back in the fall speaking clearly and in full sentences. I was sure Michael would excel during the summer, and he came back seemingly having forgotten everything we worked on the previous year.
My point is, if YOU, as the parent, provide evidence that your child has regressed in the past during a break from services, that should be enough for the IEP team to agree that ESY services are warranted. Your child just started speech therapy this year and you have no evidence? Then discuss what you know about your child’s speech deficits and describe your fears or worries to the team. Have you seen some form of regression in the past, like your child’s speech skills declining after a weekend away from you? Are you afraid that he will get off to a bad start with his new classmates in the fall after an entire summer without speech therapy? These are valid concerns, and the IEP team can and should take them into consideration.
If your child has a moderate to severe stutter, continuation of speech therapy during the summer is a must. It is common for stuttering severity to fluctuate depending on a variety of factors. One week, your child’s speech will be completely smooth, and the next he could present with disfluencies on nearly every other word. This could be due to any number of factors including fatigue or stress, but often the cause is unknown to parents. In most of my students who stutter, there is an increase in disfluent speech at the start of a new school year. A new class, a new teacher, new classmates, and harder material to learn? Couple that with over two months off from speech therapy? No, thank you.
Sometimes a child with significant articulation deficits may also require speech therapy during ESY. For example, if your kindergartener is only 70% intelligible due to multiple sound substitutions and receives 60+ minutes of speech therapy per week, she might require ESY support. She is likely to be in speech therapy for a long time, and 60 minutes is A LOT of class time to miss every single week. Those summer months could be spent making progress toward service completion (graduation, woohoo!) instead of remaining stagnant or possibly regressing.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to school-based speech therapy during summer school. Of course, if your child does not meet the criteria and you would like him to continue making lots of progress, look for a licensed speech-language pathologist who provides services during the summer. Try to find someone who will provide therapy using baseline information from your child’s school assessment, IEP, and progress reports to make the process move quickly and avoid costly evaluations. Click here to schedule a free phone consultation with Springboard Speech Therapy if you are in the Los Angeles Area.
And have a wonderful summer!