EDUCATION AND EDUCATIONAL ADVOCACY
Transition from Family Support Plan to IEP
When your child turns three, the School District of Palm Beach County replaces Early Steps as your service provider. At this time the IEP replaces the Family Support Plan.
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).
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 special education through what’s known as a service plan (also called an Individual Services Plan).
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 pre-school, but it is not required. You may choose a private (self- pay) or public-school option. Your child should attend the preschool program closest to your home that has the program appropriate for meeting your child’s IEP goals. There are half-day and full-day programs depending on your child’s individual needs. Many programs are speech/language models which are often appropriate placements for children with Down syndrome. 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 children turn four, they become eligible for VPK, a voluntary paid pre-kindergarten program. Again, you can pick a public or private school. When choosing the appropriate preschool option for your child, it is important to look for a classroom and teacher with high expectations, and positive speech/language, social/behavior, and self-help skill role models that can impact the development of many of our children who are great imitators.
Public schools offer half-day and full-day programs depending on your child’s individual needs. Many programs are speech/language models which are often appropriate placements for children with Down syndrome. Most of the preschool programs provided by the school district serve only children with disabilities.
More and more families are choosing to send their children to private preschool or daycare programs with typical children. There are now VPK options that include supports from ESE.
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, keeping in mind that retention there may give them that same developmental opportunity. 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. You may have heard the term mainstreaming. While inclusion educates children in the mainstream (where the typical peers are), inclusion and mainstreaming are not the same thing. In mainstreaming, children with disabilities are a part of a special education class and earn their way into the mainstream. 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. Their name is on the roster for that class and they may receive their special education services in that classroom. If they receive any services out of the general education class, such as in a resource room, they return to the general education class.
Your Role as an Advocate
Always remember that parents and professionals may not have the same vision for a 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 happy adulthood.
HOW WE HELP
- Guidance on IEPs, School Meetings and Education Matters
- Provide an Advocate at School IEP Meetings
- Smart Start, a Workshop on Transitioning to Pre-School
- School Rules!, a Workshop on Transitioning to Kindergarten
- Paper Organizing Night, an evening of organizing
- The Learning Program, which includes information on legal rights, IEPs and developing a positive home-school relationship as part of the curriculum.
For information on our Educational Advocacy Program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org|561.752.3383.