HOLLYWOOD — Laurie Steinberg, a veteran educator with 35 years of experience in Exceptional Student Education (ESE), has joined the Education Department as ESE case manager. She will help students with learning disabilities get the services they need to successfully complete their educations.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 15 percent of Americans have learning disabilities. Difficulty with reading and language skills are the most common problems. Learning disabilities – the result of a neurological disorder, or the way a brain is wired – tend to run in families.
In Florida, students with learning disabilities can receive specially designed instructions to meet their unique needs.
Public schools provide ESE students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP), which identifies issues, goals and strategies to meet those goals. The IEP, which must be followed in the classroom, is reviewed annually by the school administrator, teachers and parents. Parents can have an advocate with them at the meeting to help them understand the process and get the most out of it for their child. Steinberg serves as that advocate for Tribal families.
“I want to make parents aware of what is available to their children,” she said.
Steinberg further acts as a liaison for the school, student and parents to ensure the student’s needs are accommodated.
Although not bound by an IEP, private schools will take recommendations from professionals. In extreme cases when a school does not meet a student’s needs, Steinberg may suggest transferring to another school.
“My goal is to make sure students’ needs are being met, whether they are in public or private school,” she said. “When kids transition to middle and high schools, they need to understand they have a plan to assist them and learn to be an advocate for themselves.”
Teachers typically notice learning disabilities in their students first, so parents should listen if a teacher says their child performs below grade level, has difficulty interacting with peers, cannot complete assignments or cannot stay on task, she said.
Steinberg also refers students to the Children’s Center for Diagnostics and Therapy for psycho-educational evaluations that diagnose whether learning disabilities exist. Once determined, she works closely with the school and makes recommendations for specific accommodations for the student. Examples include more time to complete assignments and more clarification from the teacher when necessary.
“If a parent is concerned about their child’s academic performance, it is important for them to contact the K-12 adviser,” Steinberg said. “Together the school, parent, adviser and ESE case manager can come up with strategies and interventions to try in the classroom to support the child’s learning or behavioral needs.”
Steinberg’s door is always open. She welcomes parents to stop by her office at the DSO building in Hollywood.