Summer programs for kids with special needs

summer-vacation1If your child has an IFSP or an IEP and is receiving services for a developmental delay or a qualifying disability, it may be possible for services to continue throughout the summer months.  This is called Extended School Year services or ESY.  ESY may include continued special education services or related services. It is sometimes possible for a child who does not have an IEP but rather a 504 plan to receive ESY. ESY is based on your child’s individual needs and your state’s regulations.

How is ESY helpful?

For most children, receiving special education or related services during the school year is more than adequate for their needs. But, for other children, the time between June and September is too long a period to go without receiving services. For instance, if your child has a language disability and has been receiving speech therapy, it may be hard to stop services for the summer without fearing that progress won’t continue, or worse, that your child may lose skills.

Extending services throughout the summer months may be appropriate for your child. This may take the form of additional therapy, academic tutoring, summer school, or a special program. It all depends on your child’s individual needs AND the regulations in your state.

Who qualifies for ESY?

Wrightslaw has a great page that tells you what you need to know about ESY services for your child. They emphasize that you need to understand the regulations in your state as well as recent court decisions that would establish a precedence or new procedures which may apply to your child’s situation.  On their webpage, Wrightslaw refers to a great article “Standards for Extended School Year (ESY)” by Nissan Bar-Lev. The author describes the legal basis and standards for ESY as defined by federal courts around the country. It is well worth a read.

Once you understand your state’s regulations, you can discuss your concerns with the IEP team at your next IEP meeting. ESY may or may not be necessary to comply with the requirement that your child receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE).

If the IFSP/IEP team (of which parents are members) decides that your child qualifies for ESY services to continue during the summer months, then services would be added to your child’s program on her IFSP or IEP. (Your child’s IFSP or IEP is the document that describes all of the services that she will receive all year, due to her developmental delay or disability. Please refer to my prior post on how to write good IEP goals.)

What else can your child do for the summer?

Whether your child qualifies for ESY services or not, or if you have other ideas for her summer program, you might consider a summer camp for all or part of your child’s summer.  It seems that there is a camp program for every child, with every diagnosis or need. Check out this article on camps for kids with special needs and learn what to look for and questions to ask .

My daughter used to qualify for continued speech therapy sessions during the summer through ESY. Instead of putting her in an academic summer school program with speech therapy sessions during the day, I opted for an artsy kind of day camp at the YWCA (more her style) and kept twice weekly speech sessions early in the morning. This way, she still got her therapy but also had the benefit of an entirely different kind of summer experience.  The school system provided the speech sessions as part of her free and appropriate public education (FAPE), while I paid for the summer camp. The theatrical part of the camp helped her with her communication skills, and introduced her to the world of theater.  It started a lifelong love of drama for her, and she acted in plays in high school and beyond.  Who would have thought that a little girl with a speech disorder would enjoy speaking on a stage! It provided a different way of tackling her speech problems and gave her a much needed shot of confidence. The end result was that her speech skills would increase dramatically in one summer session.

Often dabbling in something different for the summer can open doors for your child that you never thought of!

Bottom line

Be sure to explore all of the options for your child’s summer program. This could be a time to introduce her to new experiences which will only enhance her learning and help her progress. This is the time to be creative and to have fun. When kids are happy, they tend to blossom.

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.


  • comment-avatar
    valencia bridges October 31, 2013

    hoping to get more info for my child with special need he have in iep

  • comment-avatar

    Hi Valencia,
    Thank you for visiting News Moms Need. Feel free to send in a detailed question to We will do our very best to help you.
    March of Dimes

  • comment-avatar
    rebekah rivera March 12, 2015

    both my children age 9 and 10 are special needs with learing issues im looking for summer camp help. we live in the tampa area near Rowlett park

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    Marlene Estevez May 7, 2015

    I am a single mother of two, my youngest receives speech therapy at his school. I want to enroll him in a summer camp for special needs kids but they are too expensive. I wanted to know if they are free or low cost summer camps in Queens NY.


  • comment-avatar

    Hello Marlene and thanks for your question. We are sending you an email with more specific information. Hopefully it will be helpful to you.

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    Arnette Hill June 24, 2015

    I’m looking for a summer Program for my 5 year old daughter. thank you

  • comment-avatar
    Barbara June 25, 2015

    Hello Arnette,
    Thank you for commenting on our blog. If you send a more detailed request to, we will do our best to help you.

  • comment-avatar
    Tinese July 12, 2015

    I have a 10 year old son whom is special needs and I’m trying to find something to do during the summer that fits him

  • comment-avatar
    Barbara July 13, 2015

    Hi Tinese,
    Thank you for reading and commenting on our blog. I will send you a private email with suggestions for finding camps for your child.
    All the best,

  • comment-avatar

    Hi I have a 10 year old also with special needs with an IEP and I’m looking for a summer school for him this up coming year if there is anyway you can help me I will be great full thank you…