Who Invited Him? Involving the Student in the IEP Meeting
Posted Apr 21 2009 12:30am
My daughter has been attending her own IEP meetings since she was in second grade. Involving her in this process at an early age has empowered her to "take ownership" of her education. It has helped her understand her strengths, her weaknesses, and how her disability affects her in the classroom. It has also strengthened her relationship with her teachers and service providers, and clarified her understanding of the roles they play in her education.
When a child is developmentally ready to understand and participate in the IEP meeting, it can be done quite simply. Here's how I have done it in the past.
When I receive the "invitation" to the IEP, I immediately contact all of my daughter's teachers. I ask them to prepare 1-2 minutes of positive comments to share with Tess at the upcoming meeting. I also ask them to share with her a "summary" of what her new IEP goals will be. The teachers and therapists have always been very receptive and enthusiastic about this.
I coordinate the meeting logistics with the vice-principal and classroom teacher. We plan to have my daughter called from her classroom for the final ten minutes of the IEP meeting.
A few days before the scheduled date, I tell my daughter that she will be participating in her upcoming IEP meeting. I show her drafts of her new IEP goals, and we talk about what she will be working on during the next year. I remind her what role each teacher and therapist plays in her educational program. Together, we look over her Program Description and lists of accommodations. Finally, we have a little chat about her disability, and how it affects her in school. We discuss all of this, and together we determine if she has any questions to ask of the Team.
On the morning of the meeting, I remind her that she will be called to the front office, and give her an "approximate" time frame of the meeting. The meeting convenes, and we proceed through the agenda, and complete the IEP. When all of the "official business" is completed, someone arranges for the front office to page Tess. She is then instructed to go to the conference room.
The "stage" is set. We are all present, and waiting for Tess. The vice-principal always has a chair ready for her. It is usually a big, office-type chair (which Tess loves to sit in). When Tess arrives, she sits down in her chair. The vice-principal (usually seated next to her), instructs Tess to "sign in" -- acknowledging her attendance at the meeting. Then, each IEP Team member takes her turn "presenting" to Tess. The general education teacher, the special education teacher, the speech pathologist, the occupational therapist, the social worker -- each educator addresses Tess directly. No one speaks to me at this point -- they direct their comments strictly towards Tess.
When they are done (this takes less than ten minutes), they ask Tess if she has any questions. So far, she hasn't. Then, we send her back to her classroom.
After school, Tess and I review and discuss what happened at the meeting. I show her the completed IEP, and we briefly look over the document. I always tell her how proud I am of what she has accomplished during the past year. I also tell her how fortunate she is to have such amazing teachers. I encourage her to keep up the great work. She then skips off to play.
I believe that by involving my daughter in her special education programming, she is becoming more "invested" in her education. She understands why she is being "pulled out" of the classroom. She understands that she learns differently than other students, and that's okay! She understands why she is given certain accommodations and supports in the classroom - and that it is her right to have them!
This is just the beginning. Over time, I plan to have Tess contribute to the development of her IEP goals and Program Description. This is essential, given that at age 14, we will begin developing her Transition Plan for high school and beyond.
I encourage parents and educators alike to involve students in the IEP process, whenever it is appropriate. The long-term positive impact could be tremendous!