By Darian Brenner
Extended School Year, or ESY, occurs every summer at The Vista School® to ensure that students maintain their developmental and social skills throughout the year.
“ESY is supplemental to our regular school year because the students who attend Vista require additional support, the routine of ESY, and consistency in learning skills to ensure success,” stated Violet Rush, student services manager.
ESY will take place from July 5 to August 8 and occurs only four days a week, rather than the standard five days a week in the typical school year. Though they’re in school, students will get to have some fun during ESY by engaging in Wacky Wednesdays and Reverse Inclusion.
“Wacky Wednesday will be every Wednesday and consist of either a theme or big water slides being brought on campus. Each class will have about 30 minutes to go out and play throughout the day,” Rush said.
Additionally, students will engage in Reverse Inclusion during ESY. Reverse Inclusion consists of “typical” peers (children who don’t have autism) visiting The Vista School to engage in staff-supported activities with selected students. Vista students will be paired up with typical peers close in age who will help the students with goals in their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs).
“An example of this would be a student’s speech therapist wanting the student to work on taking turns and conversational skills with their peer,” Rush continued. “As hard as we [staff] try to create what a natural environment would be like, we’re not a 9-to-11-year-old boy. So what they spontaneously think or say, we’re trying to expose our students to those same interactions.”
During Reverse Inclusion, students and their peers will engage in activities such as free play with toys, crafting, making snacks, etc. Whether the activity includes playing a game of checkers or baking cookies, students will be able to learn from their peers in typical situations that they may encounter.
Currently, the typical students in the program are either siblings of Vista students or children of Vista staff. Rush hopes to open this program to the public in the future.
“We’re not really looking to expand this year with the students that we have, but in looking at next year and future years, I think it would be great to start to partner with some local programs of volunteers and doing that in a systematic way to make it effective,” she said.