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Understanding exceptional student education in Florida

When it comes to education, most parents are more than willing to go the extra mile to help their children succeed, whether that means sending them to a private school, lending a hand with homework or even securing the services of a tutor.

As difficult as these efforts can be in terms of time, money and energy, they can become even more so if a child is experiencing learning difficulties due to an underlying health condition.

While this can be alarming, frustrating and confusing, parents who find themselves in these situations can take comfort in the fact that the Florida Department of Education has a procedure in place to help those children who require additional assistance and/or attention in school.

Indeed, when it becomes apparent that a child in the public school system is experiencing difficulties, a team of professionals/interested parties (including parents) will be assembled to help identify the underlying issues. Once this is accomplished, the team members will then introduce changes in the teaching approach -- known as interventions -- that are designed to help the child succeed.

Thereafter, the team will engage in a process known as Problem-solving/Response to Intervention -- otherwise known as PS/Rtl -- to monitor the child's response to the new teaching strategies. If necessary, the team will change the intensity or form of the interventions, something made possible by the state's multi-tiered system of supports, or MTSS.

It's important for parents to understand that the PS/Rtl process may lead the team to conclude that a referral should be made for the child to undergo an evaluation for a possible disability.

This is significant, of course, as children requiring specialized and/or ongoing intensive instruction owing to a disability qualify for special education, otherwise referred to as exceptional student education, or ESE, here in the Sunshine State.

We'll continue examining this issue in future posts. In the meantime, those parents who have encountered serious problems with a school district over the education of their special needs child should strongly consider speaking with a skilled legal professional. 

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