One of the families that I work with wants to know if their son, Tom should participate in the IEP process?
This question has many layers to it: the age of the student; the topics to be discussed; the qualifying disability of the student; as well as the dynamics of the team members. Therefore the question cannot have a simple one size fits all answer. However, the regulations require that if an Individual Transition Plan is being developed the student must be present for that part of the IEP.
For the sake of simplicity I will address it from the perspective of a high school SPED teacher. I have been teaching for over 15 years, the majority of time at a high school level. It constantly amazes me when I advise my students that I want them to attend and participate at the meeting. Frequently the response is “do I have to?” or “why?”
As an educator, I am concerned because it could show a lack of investment on the part of the student in a process that is about them. Many students view the IEP as something that happens to them, but not something that directly impacts them. Furthermore, they may even question if they should have a say about whatever it is that is being discussed. Students view are appreciated and needed to help guide the IEP document.
Back to Tom, by the way a fictitious name, he needs to be involved in the process from the earliest possible beginning. He needs to be able to understand the rationale of decisions being made, the consequences of certain choices, the necessity of parameters involved.
Tom needs to fully grasp the fact that his disability is something that he will be dealing with for the rest of his life and the more understanding that he has, the more empowered he will become. He truly must understand what the disability means for him on a personal level: how he incorporates information, how well he can communicate verbally or in written manner; how well he can advocate for himself: all of these aspects will permeate into his life personally and professionally.
There have been many instances where I have explained what it means to be dyslexic to a high school student. They have had no idea of what that particular diagnosis means; all they believe is that they are “stupid”. Is it healthy for a student to have that message internalized? What could be wrong with providing them with the information and the strategies so that they can learn how to deal with it in a productive way?
Let me know your thoughts! Sharon McCormick