Extended Learning 2021- Is it right for my Special Needs Child?

This year has brought on a lot of changes in the world of schooling. For parents with children who currently qualify to be on an IEP, questions for options and services seemed to grow even longer than the already lengthy normal list.  The IEP structure we were fairly familiar with became a bit less concrete as so many changes were made to the school to accommodate restrictions brought on by the pandemic. Now it seems everyone is in catch-up mode, hoping to rectify decisions that led to lost school time and/or progress. And where there are new programs, there are sure to be new questions. So today we are going to dive into the option of Extended Learning.

I’m sure the Extended Learning plan is pretty straight forward for most kids, but there is always a lot more that involved when you have kiddos with IEPs, especially when the IEPs are extensive. I had plenty of questions myself about the Extended Learning plan being offered so I reached out to my school for clarification. We talked in detail about the exact Extended Learning plan that our school was offering and between our discussions and my extra research, this is what I learned:

  1. The Basics

On the outside, it just looked like a short summer school session. Two and a half weeks of half day school in the month of June with optional transportations provided. The school identified the students who qualified and sent out a paper offering the option for the additional school time to the parents. Parents had the choice to accept or deny the Extended Learning. The whole Extended Learning initiative was rolled out by the state of Ohio as a way to help children who have had their learning impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Each school was told to implement their own plan to address the Extended Learning so how it is done may vary between schools. For more information on your school’s specific plan visit here.

  1. Not for IEP services

Extended School Year (ESY) Services are specifically addressed in a child’s IEP (for more information click here). The additional summer services provided through ESY are identified when there is regression with goals outlined in the IEP. ESY and Extended Learning as not the same thing. If you decided to send your child for the Extended Learning being offered for the first time this year, your child will not be working on the goals outlined in their IEP. An easy example of this would be if your child receives speech therapy services through his IEP. In a normal school week, they would go to these therapy services but through the Extended Learning they will only be attended for core class work and not for those additional services. If you believe your child’s IEP goal progress was also impacted by the coronavirus or just in general, I would recommend that you discuss ESY services in your next IEP meeting.

  1. Probable IEP Exceptions

If your child’s IEP outlines specific accommodations to help with their core learning or classroom work, then the school should still provide these for the Extended Learning plan. I say “should’ as I cannot specifically speak to every school district as they all have differing plans. My son’s IEP identifies that he has a paraprofessional for supports in his general education classroom. I specifically asked the school if I decided to send him for Extended Learning if he would still have an aid provided to him and they said “of course”. 

  1. It is for General Education

Due to my son’s special needs, his teacher and intervention specialist currently make many modifications to my son’s general education curriculum to help him complete his work. The Extended Learning plan offered to him had not identified who the teacher would be, but I was aware that it was not going to be the teacher that he currently had. The class would just be taught by a general education teacher who was not already familiar with the modifications my son needed and no intervention specialist would be involved. After finding out that last bit of information, we decided that the Extended Learning plan being offered would be not a good fit for our son.


It has been a very difficult year in education for many kids, both with and without special needs. I am glad that they are finally working at options like Extended Learning to help close the gaps that were made. Although we personally made the decision that Extended Learning would not be beneficial to our child, this will actually be the first year that we have decided to pursue ESY services to address some of my son’s IEP goals. So even if Extended Learning is not a viable option for your child remember that those ESY services may still be a good opportunity to consider if your child qualifies. As a general disclaimer, I am by no means an expert on any of this. Just a mom that had a long list of questions that I took to my child’s school and access to the Ohio Department of Educations website.  I hope that this information shines some light on the Extended Learning program. If your child really is in need of extra help this summer, I hope they can bridge that gap with these plans that have been put in place.