Early Steps transitions to FDLRS or Child Find. FDLRS stands for Florida Diagnostic & Learning Resources System. FDLRS is a state-wide agency that provides various resources for children with developmental delays or special needs under the Federal law Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). If you visit the home site you can find the county or region that supports where you live. For example, the Gulfcoast center serves Pasco, Hernando and Pinellas Counties. Hillsborough has it’s own center. Visit the website to find where and who services your county. Early Steps is your first early screening and detection agency. Once your child turns three then the program changes to Child Find and the services and availability of those services changes. This is my review about finding these services and express my experiences working with and receiving services for my child.
I had previously used Early Steps with Pinellas County to have my son evaluated for a speech delay. He was about 2 years old. When he was assessed he was below the average but because he wasn’t 2 standard deviations below they couldn’t offer us services. I thought at that time that we were doing the right things and that our son was just delayed. As the months continued and the problems increased we had to wait until he was bad enough and far enough behind to qualify for help. After working with the private school staff, I had more information to take with me back to Early Steps.
Early Steps ends at age 3 and that’s when FDLRS takes over. So, we went back to Early Steps and explained what the problems were now. An assessment was scheduled for October. Max turned 3 in November. Max qualified for help, we entered Early Steps and scheduled the meeting to discuss a plan for his education and services. The program was able to enter us and exit us into the school based services quickly. We had a meeting to discuss putting Max in a blended ESE Pre-k classroom. There he would have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and receive speech therapy.
At our meeting, I remember the words of spectrum and autism like behavior mentioned but it was subtle. I felt that there was definitely a sensory processing disorder. During the months of Max still being 2 and not qualifying for help, I read and researched what I saw and could describe. When I read the SPD information…Max had 9 out of 10 of the items on the list! So, I kept reading and reading; then asked questions to other professionals and even parents. Max entered the public school in December.
Once Max entered into the school program, we realized it was very different than what we experienced with private school and even with the district employees that qualified us for FDLRS. My recommendation is to immediately schedule a conference upon entering a blended pre-K class and having an IEP. You need to know what the day will look like and how the services are going to be received. You also need to demand a communication system be put in place immediately. The change in school will be difficult for a child with autism or spectrum behaviors. You also have to teach the school how to work with you as a parent and make a decision to be an advocate for your child.
My experiences are from living in Pinellas County. I have friends that live in Hillsborough and have been on the waiting list for at least 6 months with the district Child Find team telling her that it will still be another 3 months before her child diagnosed with autism will have a blended pre-k placement. In the research and reading that I have done, Hillsborough seems to have better options of school and receiving services for speech and Occupational therapy. The information regarding the next school year 2017-2018 will be that Hillsborough will have speech and OT services available for student placements at both public and private schools. In addition, at public schools teachers will be receiving training in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
Good Luck in your journey with finding and using resources through Child Find and FDLRS.