Inclusion for Children
The Gold Coast Down Syndrome provides educational advocacy assistance to families at no cost. For more information please contact Sue Davis-Killian at
AT A GLANCE GUIDE TO EDUCATION
Transition from Family Support Plan to Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
When your child turns three, the School District of Palm Beach County replaces Early Steps as your child’s service provider. At this time the IEP replaces the Family Support Plan and Child Find replaces Early Steps.
The IEP is a written document that’s developed for each public-school child who is eligible for special education. The IEP is developed through a school/home partnership and contains a child’s present levels of performance and annual goals to achieve both academic and social success. The IEP is covered by special education law, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). For more information visit GreatSchools.org
IEPs are a part of public education. They’re given to eligible kids who attend public school. That includes charter schools. Private schools don’t offer IEPs. But students in private school may be able to get some services through what’s known as a service plan (also called an Individual Services Plan). For more information visit the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
You should review your child’s IEP often. If your child is not making progress you should immediately address it. You are an equal partner in the educational process. This means making IEP decisions as part of the team, as well as doing your part at home in all areas of learning to ensure your child’s success at school.
You can enroll your child in preschool at age 3, but it is not required. You may choose a private (self- pay) or public-school option. There are public-school half-day and full-day programs depending on your child’s individual needs. The preschool programs provided by the school district serve only children with disabilities. More and more families are choosing to send their children to preschool or daycare programs with typical children. When choosing the appropriate preschool option for your child, it is important to look for a classroom and teacher with high expectations and good peer role models, because many of our children are great imitators.
In Florida, all 4-year olds and younger 5 year olds are eligible for free Voluntary PreK (VPK). Both public and private schools offer VPK. Some of the public school VPK models are inclusive VPK, in which half of the students have disabilities and half do not. This is often a great placement to prepare your child for Kindergarten. More information about VPK
Is Your Child Ready for Kindergarten?
There is often discussion after a child’s fifth birthday about whether they are ready for kindergarten. Children in Florida do not have to enter kindergarten until age six. Many families feel that remaining in preschool for an extra year will better prepare their child for the kindergarten experience. Other families will move their child onto kindergarten. Today, we have an expectation that children with Down syndrome will enter a typical kindergarten class alongside their peers without disabilities and receive the supports and services they need to be successful in the inclusive, general education setting.
Middle and High School
In middle and high school, children can attend the same school they would attend if they did not have Down syndrome, unless you as their parent choose a different school. The McKay Scholarship and Choice Programs provide opportunities for individuals to experience classes that may be high interest such as culinary arts or an ROTC program. Families also use these options when they are not comfortable with the school a student would otherwise attend.
Your child has the right to go to school and the right to have a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment (LRE).
- The Least Restrictive Environment for almost all children with Down syndrome is the general education classroom with supplementary aids and services. This is known as inclusion.
- Inclusion is not mainstreaming. In mainstreaming, children with disabilities are a part of a special education class. They are usually invited to join music, art and physical education and therefore may be seen as visitors.
- Children who are “included” are part of a general education class where they receive their special education services and are on the class roster. If they receive any services out of the general education class, such as speech therapy, they return to the general education class.
Your Role as an Advocate
Always remember that professionals may not have the same vision for your child’s future as you do. As a parent, you know your child best and must insist that the goals you have for your child are included in the IEP. To be your child’s best advocate, you need to know about your child’s educational rights and have a clear vision of the path that will lead to a productive and happy adulthood.
Ages 2 ½ to 22
Provides families with an experienced advocate free of charge to help manage IEPs, classroom placements and more so that children can thrive in a learning environment tailored to their needs.