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Special Education/ESY and reading instruction


Some background on my son. he is 11 years old, currently in 5th grade. We live in Texas. My son has autism.

I have a few questions. My son's teacher has recommended that my son receive ESY services for 3hours per day, 4 days per week, for 5 weeks. Our district typically has a "program" with set days and times for those students who qualify for ESY. This summer, my son will be attending a camp during th weeks the district has designated for ESY services. My question:

1) Can the district limit ESY services to specific dates?
2) Are we able to push for services during other weeks, since the teacher already has said that he qualifies?

My other questions are regarding my son's reading program. For years, I have felt he is capable of improving his reading skills with the correct program and instruction. I have pushed for the involvement of both a reading instruction specialist and a speech and language pathologist. The district has been unwilling to provide either. (He does receive speech services, but they are separate from reading instruction.)
Our in home trainer has recently written al enter to my son's team, stating many of the same concerns that I have in the past. His reading level at home seems to be far beneath what the teacher states. He makes many errors, even on known words. He has a difficult time decoding words and guesses. Once prompted, he can decode words.
Here are some of my specific questions for you.

1) Is there a minimum amount of reading instruction that should be provided to struggling readers? From what I read online, a 90-minute block is suggested as a minimum. Is it possible to hold them to this?

2) The district has reading instruction specialists, but not on our campus. The team's argument is that our son's teacher is trained in the reading program (SRA Mastery). I feel a reading intervention specialist's expertise is needed to determine if the program is sufficient, if additional instruction is needed, which skills need further development, etc....

3) The difficulties my son has with reading overlap with his speech delays/problems. They are in multiple areas - pragmatics, intraverbals, articulation, phonemic awareness, etc.... Is it reasonable for an SLP to be involved with the reading?

4) Can you explain NCLB to me? I don't understand how it applies to my son. I thought it was intended to help all children achieve grade-level reading by the end of 3rd grade, but from what I read online, it sounds as if it only helps students who are on campuses that are underachieving. Should it apply to my son? Does the district - or did it - have a responsibility to attempt to have my son reading at grade level? It seems like it was expected that he'd be a poor reader because he has autism, and it doesn't seem a strong effort was made to try and close the gap in his reading delay.

I'm very frustrated by the reading instruction my son is receiving. Any suggestions you have would be great.

- Michelle

Special Needs Advocacy
Special Needs Advocacy  
Hi Michelle,  I hope you'll give me a pass on taking a bit of time to answer you.  You've asked some great questions, some of them are pretty detailed, and so I tried to take time to think about the most important aspects of a response that will help you.  I hope you feel I accomplished that with the answers below to your questions:

ESY question 1:
As you can see by this link, NO, it would not be legal for a school district to limit any aspect of what ESY services can be or that are offered.,root,regs,300,B,300%252E106,

ESY is not just for summertime!  It is an extension of the school year that a child needs to receive a free appropriate public education.  I will detail that in the next section.  But overall, the child's ESY services, just like IEP services, must be individualized and must meet the child's unique needs.

I see you live in Texas, so I have provided you here with two links to the Texas code , the law on ESY:$ext.TacPage?sl=T&app=9&p_dir=P&p_rlo

So when you are making an argument for ESY for your son, be sure that the formal and informal evaluations speak to the criteria set out in your State regulations.

ESY question 2:  
If there are informal and/or formal evaluations that state your son needs an extended program during the summertime, then yes, I think you would have evidence to request an extended program.  

I am going to answer the rest of this in two ways.  First, I am going to assume that the ESY program offered to your son is appropriate and correct, and then I will assume that you believe the ESY program offered is not appropriate, because my answer is different for each.

-If the district offers an apppropriate ESY program:
And you do not send your son because you have made other plans, then I don't see how you could effectively challenge the ESY placement.  The ESY regulations are specific to a child and your other summer plans will not affect any decision, if the ESY program is appropriate, and offers FAPE.  

If the district is not offering an appropriate program:
However, if you believe the ESY program offered does not offer the correct interventions, is too non-categorical (there are children with various disabilities and therefore the program is not specific to Autism), is not offered for a long enough time period, etc. and you have evaluations that state specifically what is needed over the summertime, then you would have a few options:  
a) you could ask the school district to reimburse you for a private ESY program (either the camp and/or other summer programs),
b) you could seek an evaluation that shows what he needs, either privately or through the school district, and use the evaluation to ask the school district to reconsider its decision, c) you could consult with an attorney who specializes in special education disability law to determine your options.  

If you would like the district to supplement the standard ESY offering with extended services, I cannot stress enough the importance of having evaluations which state that is what your son needs to make progress, access curriculum, and overal receive a FAPE.  

Many school districts have a standard offering, and many parents do not know that it can be challenged.  It would not be appropriate to have a one size fits all ESY program with no other options, as that would not provide a continuum and it would not be individualized.  

OK, now let's move to your questions about the reading intervention. You have told me that you have several concerns.  Your first concern is that the school district will not designate a speech language pathologist to intervene in reading literacy instruction, and your other concern is the lack of a reading specialist.  You also shared that you are concerned the classroom information/data is different from (higher) than data from the home trainer.  

These are issues that the families I work with experience on a regular basis.   I could talk for a loooooong time about each of these topics, but let me start by answering your 4 questions and then adding some information to see if I can fully answer all parts.  

Question 1: For any evidence based reading program, there are guidelines how the program/intervention should be provided.  This is one aspect of Response to INtervention, RtI.  RtI reuqires the team to:  Involve the parent, collect data, monitor progress, and provide interventions with "fidelity", or how the publisher directs.  Here is one site I found about SRA Reading, which may or may not be fully accurate, but it's an example of the information I think the team should be providing to you:

You'll find the research here about the SRA Reading Mastery program, in the What Works Clearinghouse by the USDOE.

Reading question 2:
I hear you saying that you want the reading specialist involved to monitor the implementation of the reading program, and you want data or evaluation information to show your son's progress.  I think making that request will lead to a team discussion about who is going to do what for progress monitoring and evaluating the intervention. As I said above, the team should be transparent with the parents, the data should be collected and analyzed and presented in a clear and regular manner.  Then you will have evidence to show who needs to be involved and why.  Think about what should be accomplished (data and evaluation) and then that should reveal who should do this.  Sometimes there are other specialists in the district who may be qualified.  

If you cannot get the school to do this, you have options such as asking for an independent evaluation or seeking a private evaluation.  But you did not ask me about that, so I won't go into detail here. But, my Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book

has a whole two chapters dedicated to evaluations and data methods and progress monitoring.

Reading question #3:  AHHHHHH.  The age-old debate about the involvement of the Speech Language Pathologist in reading instruction.  

Well, here is the ASHA position paper on the subject, which clearly says YES the SLP should be involved in literacy and reading, as reading is a receptive language skill, etc.  ASHA is the credentialing body for the SLP.

Although, however, the ASHA document states the expecations for SLP involvement in reading instruction does not often translate to the school team's decisions.  

A parent needs to understand what a related service is, and how to make a case for the related service.  Again, I would refer you to my Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book.  But the bottom line is that the SLP is a related service, and a related service is one that a child needs to receive a FAPE and benefit from his special education program.  Most of the time, the team is refusing to recommend a related service because the team believes the child is making progress and receiving a FAPE already, and that the service is not needed for the child to receive FAPE.  

This always brings up the question about how much progress is being made, and how much progress should be being made.  This gets to your question about the data between school and home, and what you are seeing vs. what the teacher is seeing.  

The key is to go back to the evaluations in each area and look at the recommendations.  What are the recommendations?  ARe there any recommendations?  What data is common and can be compared over time? IS there a need for updated evaluations?  Is there an evalution that specifically states that the SLP or reading specialist must be providers and are there specific goals in the IEP that would be tied to the services?

If such evaluations exist and the team still disagrees, you may want to start exploring your dispute options, and involve experts like me in special eduacation, experts in speech language pathology or other experts such as legal experts to assist you in navigating your options.  

If such evaluations do not exist, I would strive to obtain full, meaningful and detailed evaluations which demonstrate what is needed.  

I have an IEP audit service as well, which would show if the IEP is deficient in these areas, and make recommendations how to repair the IEP so it will drive forward the appropriate services, call for appropriate data, and list appropriate services.

Question 4 about Reading/NCLB:

NCLB was reauthorized in 2004 and it called for more transparency in the monitoring of all children, allowing high stakes testing, connecting incentives for schools that meet a standard for achivement, connecting consequences for schools that do not meet standards, allowing parents to obtain school staff credentials, and allowing for interventions such as tutoring in order for the schools to comply with NCLB.

Here is the Texas report card, where you can search the data about how Texas is doing in the monitoring.  Yes, there is a literacy component, but the interventions are funded mostly for the struggling schools.  Here is a fact sheet for parents about NCLB:

For your son, the goals set out by the curriculum and the goals set out for the IEP should be the focus of your inquiry about his progress, progress monitoring with data, who should provide what services, and how to determine your child's needs from the school year to ESY.

OK, I have given you quite a bit of information to digest.  I am happy to answer a follow up question from you, and clarify any part of my answer.  

I hope very much that I have given you some helpful information and resources that you will be able to use as you continue to advocate for your exceptional child's education!  

Thank you so much for using this service and writing to me!
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Michelle R. Davis, M. Ed.


I can answer questions about disability definitions and criteria for services, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act 2004, No Child Left Behind, 504 plans, how to craft an IEP that drives the appropriate services, school placement, dispute options, and least restrictive environment. I worked in the public school system as a special educator and am now in private consulting practice where we assist parents as they navigate the special education process. I have expertise in all educational disabilities except blind/visual impairments and deaf/hard of hearing. This includes ADHD and other health impairments, medical conditions, dyslexia and learning disabilities, Autism, emotional disabilities, language processing problems, and interfering behaviors.


10 years as special educator and administrator in public school system; Director of ABCs for Life Success since 1998; Expert services such as analysis and testimony; Author: Special Needs Advocacy Resource Book: What you can do now to advocate for your exceptional child's education; Special Needs Advocacy Training Institute; internet radio show Teach Your Children Well: Hot Topics in Education; author School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders released March 2010 (Prufrock Press).

Masters in Special Education with Emphasis on Inclusive Education (Johns Hopkins University); Special Education (James Madison University); Conduct training for Universities, public and private schools, parent groups. Adjunct professor current George Washington University and prior George Mason University.

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