After reading last week’s awesome post by Chrissy on Maximizing Parent Involvement in the IEP Meeting, I wanted to highlight another vital part of the IEP team: the student themselves.
Over the years, my career has had a number of twists and turns and one of the really cool results has been the privilege that I’ve had to work with students from kindergarten to seniors in high school, with the vast majority on the Autism Spectrum. Over the course of that time, I have seen a wide range of student involvement in the IEP planning process and in the meeting itself. In my experience, the more participation the student is able to have, the more authentic and student centered the meeting and the plan itself is able to be.
Involvement in the Preparation
One of the ways that I believe all students, no matter their age or cognitive level, can participate in the IEP meeting is to play a heavy role in the preparation of the IEP document in the following ways. Students present levels must be assessed properly prior to the writing of the IEP. I believe that all students deserve the respect of an appropriately leveled explanation of the reasoning behind the assessment involved. In my classroom, even at the elementary level, this has looked like a conversation (often with visuals), that we are preparing to make a fresh plan for the student. We need to know where they are now so we can decide how far they should plan to go in the next year.
Students can also participate in setting goals. This can be as simple or as complex as the age and level of the student dictates. I always err on the side of presuming competence, so I have had students as young as kindergarten help me to choose a focus for their plan in the year ahead. I know of students at the high school level, served in less restrictive environments, who play a large role in drafting their goals and setting their mastery level.
Participation via Video
When a student’s physical presence in the meeting does not make sense for agreed upon reasons, they can bring a wonderful lightness and focus to the meeting with a video presented during the IEP meeting. I have seen so many smiles and immense pride from the entire IEP committee as these videos have been shown. They set a wonderful tone for the meeting. Often students introduce the members of the committee or show examples of their present levels during these videos.
Participation via Powerpoint
When a student is able to be present for their meeting, but they may not have a confidence level or verbal expression level to lead the discussion, a powerpoint presentation is a great way for the student to guide the meeting’s discussion and take part throughout. Dependent on the student, they may be able to present a lot of the information that will be discussed using complex slides or they may keep the meeting going with a new title slide presented for each new section of the meeting. A powerpoint filled with pictures, videos, and even graphs showing progress can keep the meeting moving in a positive direction.
Leading via Outline
In the most independent of students, they are able to lead the meeting entirely. Just as I do when I lead meetings, they can utilize an outline to keep on track. I think that one of the coolest sights to witness in a meeting is a student taking control of their plan, showing understanding of their needs, and conveying confidence in asking for what they need to be successful.
Student Involvement Resources
There are several sources for information regarding student involvement. One of the best sites that I have personal experience with is: I’m Determined. There are suggestions for involvement at each age group, printable resources, and steps to take to instill in students the skills that they need to lead the meetings in the future.