Students enrolled at the Interactive Education Academy on Bloomingdale Ave. receive a personalized education with small class sizes.

Brandon-area students with special needs have an education alternative that they may not have known about. Interactive Education Academy (IEA), located on Bloomingdale Ave., specializes in educating middle and high school students with learning disabilities and other exceptionalities in grades sixth through 12.

According to English Teacher and Principal Madeleine Appelbaum, the school, which is fully accredited through the National Independent Private Schools Association (NIPSA), also educates students with ADD, ADHD and Autism.

“We often encounter students who have had negative experiences in traditional classroom settings and are looking for an alternative route,” said Appelbaum, who has a master’s degree in public administration from Villanova University and a Bachelor of Science in rehabilitative science, with a focus in developmental disabilities, from Clarion University.

Thirty-eight local students are currently enrolled in the school which has six teachers. Class sizes average from eight to 12 students although the upper high school class is currently made up of 14. According to Appelbaum, 12 students are currently educated in the self-contained classroom. “Students in a self-contained classroom are educated on the Access Points Standards and typically function significantly below grade level,” said Appelbaum.

The school offers three options for earning diplomas. The first is the standard 24-credit high school diploma. There is also a standard 19-credit high school diploma, which is only recognized at two-year colleges and technical schools. The final option is a Standard Diploma on Access Points, which looks identical to a traditional high school diploma but is not recognized as valid at any post-secondary institutions, including two and four-year colleges, technical schools and all branches of the military.

“In Florida, students with disabilities are granted the right to stay in school until they are 22 years old,” said Appelbaum.

IEA’s philosophy is to provide a well-rounded education grounded in a commitment to teach to the student, not to the standard. A specialized curriculum is tailored to help students with exceptionalities succeed, both inside and outside the academic arena.

The school, which originally opened in 2001 as the Dyslexia Institute of America, recognizes the Gardiner Scholarship as well as the John McKay Scholarship that is awarded to public school students in Florida under an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan.

To learn more about Interactive Education Academy, located at 1474 Bloomingdale Ave., call 689-2087 or visit

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Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.