Should students be involved in the IEP process?

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

About talkcounts

Diana Loiewski has been teaching special needs students for over thirty years. She not only is a classroom high school teacher, she also serves as an administrative designee in IEP meetings, and case work trainer for the military Exceptional Family Member Program. In addition, she presents on special education topics all over the country and is a co author of Individual Education Plan Workbook for Success, and Healthy Relationships a multimedia workbook for special education teens and adults. ___________________________________________________________________ Elizabeth Dominick is the parent of an 18-year-old special needs student. Elizabeth and her husband navigated the special needs odyssey from the time their son was 3 years old to the present. She and her husband have placed their son in both public and private settings and have worked with attorney advocates to get better services. Ultimately, they ended up educating themselves on special education law. Elizabeth is a past reporter and editor and currently writes parent meditations and other articles for __________________________________________________________________ Sharon McCormick is a special education teacher and blogger. She has been in the classroom for over fifteen years. Prior to that time, she worked with emotionally disturbed youth in residential and group home settings. She is clever and creative and enjoys supporting students with special education needs. ___________________________________________________________________________ Renee Tompkins is a graduate of Illinois State University with a Master’s Degree in Speech and Language Services. She is an amazing and energetic professional with fifteen years of experience working directly with special needs students. She also serves as a board member of the Special Education Foundation and supports fundraising efforts for teachers within the Poway Unified School District. She is currently employed with the Poway Unified School District and she delivers services to both groups and individuals in the transition program working with adults eighteen-years-- twenty-two years of age. Her current responsibilities include organizing and running a healthy relationship program with both men and women with intellectual disabilities.
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