Hi, this is Pam Lindemann. I’m an IEP Advocate in the State of Florida. I’ve been advocating for over 25 years. If you’re coming to Florida, there’s a couple of things that you need to know if you’re bringing with you a child who has an IEP and you’re going to be enrolling him or her in the public school system. So let me talk to those parents who have not left their home state yet, but you’re planning on coming to Florida. You’re in the process, you know you’re coming, it’s just a matter of when, and you have a child or two or more who have an IEP. What do you need to do to prepare for that? The most important thing that you can do before you leave for Florida is to have your IEP reviewed and make sure that it’s really a nice, tidy, neat little package before you leave your state.
One of the ways that I can help you, and I’ve done this with hundreds of families, is we can talk about your child’s IEP. I’ll do a consultation with you. We’ll review it together. I’ll ask you some questions. I’ll go through every part of the IEP and make sure that I understand it because IEPs from other states look different than those in Florida. What I’ll be looking for are things that perhaps the state of Florida would interpret differently than what your current state provides on an IEP. Florida is notorious for gutting IEPs from out of state. What they do is they say, “Well, we don’t provide that service that way. We do it this way.” And parents don’t know the difference. You just so desperately want to trust the new school. You are believing that they’re telling you the truth, and then you come to find out months later when your child’s not making progress, that what they explained to you, wasn’t quite exactly what you understood it to be and it wasn’t the same as it was in your home state.
When we do a consultation, what I’ll be looking for is making sure that all the services your child receives are properly explained in detail on your child’s current IEP. I’ll be making sure that all the services and help that they receive is documented on the IEP. I’ll be making sure that if there’s a service that we’re not familiar with down here in Florida, that it’s understood, that it’s explained on the IEP so that when you come to Florida, there is no question about what kind of help your child was receiving. If things aren’t written very clearly in your home state’s IEP and you come down to Florida, it can cause a lot of problems because Florida will interpret it in one way, and most of the time that may not be the best service to provide for your child.
I will tell you if things need to be rewritten, I will tell you if goals need to be added, I will tell you if wording needs to be changed so that it’s more in line with what Florida does. The purpose of all that will be for you to work with your school in your home state before you leave, and get an IEP that’s really written very well before you come down here. So you can work with your existing team, explain what you’re doing. You’re moving, you’re coming to Florida. You’ve been talking to an advocate. There’s some things that need to be clarified and strengthened on this IEP so that when you come down to Florida, the chances of them removing it from the IEP are slim to none. Then you will meet with your team up there, rewrite the IEP, have it be a stronger document. Then you can come down here to Florida, okay?
Now, for all of you families who have already moved down here to Florida, and if you’re coming to Florida, the most important thing I can tell you is do not go into your first IEP meeting by yourself. Please make sure you take an advocate. I of course would recommend myself, but honestly, I don’t care. If you find another advocate that is experienced and knowledgeable and you trust by all means, take them. Please take someone with you because… Please, this goes without saying, not all advocates are created equal. You want an advocate who knows how to go into a meeting and stand firm and negotiate with the school system so that your child’s IEP is not compromised. You want an advocate to go with you to make sure that what the school is telling you they’re going to provide, is the service that your child is currently receiving on their IEP.
What does that mean? Let me give you an example. So let’s say in your home state where you’re coming from, your child’s receiving 30 minutes of reading support every day. Let’s just say an hour, an hour of reading support every day with an EMC teacher, that special education teacher meets with your child an hour every day in order to help with reading skills. That’s what’s written on your IEP, and you come down to Florida. In the meeting, they say, “Okay, yes, we can. We’ll make sure that that happens. Absolutely. We have a special education teacher and she’ll go into your classroom.”
Because here in Florida, they may say to you, “We provide this service in the classroom because we want to make sure that your child doesn’t miss important instructional time. So we have our special education teachers go into the classroom and work with your child, because then he has the benefit of getting the instruction and the special help and we’re going to do that for an hour a day, just like he was getting in his previous school.” And you’re sitting there as a parent thinking, “Oh, thank goodness. That’s just wonderful. That’s fabulous. That’s even better. So he’s going to get the time, 60 minutes a day with a special education teacher who’s going to help him with the same reading skill. Fantastic.” And everybody’s happy, they write the IEP.
Several months later, your child’s not making any progress in reading and you don’t know why. You’re becoming frustrated because if anything, he might even be regressing if he’s not making progress. You call me and I look at the IEP and I’ll say, “Well, let me explain what kind of service he’s getting.” So in Florida we have… Other states have this too, we’re not the only state, but one of the popular service models, one of the popular ways of providing special education to children who have IEPs is through a model called support facilitation. If you don’t know what support facilitation is, you could easily be misguided into thinking that it’s equal to the service your child was receiving previously.
Support facilitation means that a special education teacher does go into the classroom, does go into the regular classroom and they can work with your child. Let’s say it’s 60 minutes. They can work with your child in the regular ed classroom. But just because it says 60 minutes on the IEP does not mean the special education teacher is working with your child for 60 minutes, five days a week. That’s not what support facilitation is. That’s what direct instruction is, which is what your school did previously. But support facilitation means that a special education teacher goes into the classroom and she’s in that classroom, and her job is to help all students in that classroom, not just your child.
So she’ll be in the classroom for 60 minutes, but that doesn’t mean she’s helping your child for 60 minutes. What she’s obligated to do is to help all the children in the classroom. Now, here’s the thing. Some schools, the special education teacher will go into the gen ed classroom and help only the children who have IEPs. So that could be your son or daughter, and maybe 15 other kids who have IEPs. She’s there for that hour to help all those kids, any one of those children who have problems. What she does is, she may go up to your son and she’ll say, “Hey, Matthew, do you understand what the teacher’s teaching you?” And because it’s an ELA class, an English Language Arts Class. This is reading support. “Are you following the teacher? Do you have any questions that I can help you with?”
Now, if your child isn’t in the mood to have somebody help him or doesn’t want to have attention drawn to him, or whatever reason and says, “No, I got it. I don’t need any help. I understand.” And the teacher says, “Are you sure? Let me go over something.” And he says, “No, I got it.” She’ll walk away. She’ll walk away and won’t help him. That counts as providing the service and parents don’t know this. We have to make sure when you’re in that first IEP meeting, it’s critically important that these types of things don’t happen, or if they do happen, you clearly understand exactly what type of help your child is getting. If you feel it’s a benefit to your child and you want to move forward, fantastic. But at least you’ve been properly informed on what’s going to happen with your child, okay?
So that’s why it’s so critically important to have an advocate go with you into that first meeting, because it’s going to set the tone for everything thereafter. Just another piece of information. When you’re in that first meeting, if you don’t like the new IEP that’s being proposed to you for the county in Florida, for the school district in Florida that you’re going to be attending… If you don’t like it, if you’re not a hundred percent sure that it’s providing the service that your child needs, do not sign it. Do not sign it.
Because if you don’t sign that Florida IEP, your previous IEP from the state that you came from stays in effect. That’s the IEP that the public school district has to follow until a new one is created, okay? There are so many… That’s a whole nother discussion I could go into. There are just so many pitfalls that you have to be aware of that it’s just our goal here at The IEP Advocate is to help you make sure that you don’t fall in into those traps and that your child continues to receive the best service possible.
The purpose of this is not to scare you. We’ll welcome you. We’re thrilled that you’re coming down here. There’s so many good things down here. We just want to help you be prepared and make your move as successful as possible. So you can give us a call. We can do a free intake call to talk about our services and how we can help you and whatever else we can do for you. Take care. If you’re on the move down here, have a safe trip and may God bless you and your family. Take care.
The IEP Advocate is your best shot at helping your child succeed in school (and life). We help parents get the school to approve and follow individual education plans (IEPs) for their children who are struggling in school. Even if the school is saying “no” to you, we’ll get them to say “yes” to us!
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