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Should Students Attend Their IEP Meeting?
Join the discussion.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
requires that a student age 14 or older must be
to attend his or her IEP meeting, but does not
such attendance. Although each child is different, experts say that younger children (as early as 4th grade) can benefit from and contribute value to their IEP meeting. But in order to be successful, the child must be prepared in advance. Parents clearly have an important role in preparing their child, but teachers can play an important role as well.
Parents should engage their child in an exploratory conversation well in advance of the meeting—perhaps in a series of discussions—in order to help the child reflect on his strengths, weaknesses, and needs. Questions can relate to both curriculum as well as to physical environment and interpersonal activity.
prepare the student
by explaining in advance what the IEP meeting will be like, what the student’s participation will involve, and by engaging the child in the same sorts of self-reflecting questions. Teachers must also assure the student that the process is not judgmental or punitive, and that everyone is committed to his success.
Levels of student involvement in the IEP process
This will differ, depending on whether current, prior, or no IEP exists. For new IEPs, the student may describe his disability—strengths, weaknesses, and what he needs in order to accommodate his disorder and be successful. When a current or prior IEP is being reviewed in order to plan for the next year, the student may describe what worked for him, what didn’t work, and what more or different services or accommodations he may need. The student can also define goals the IEP will help him achieve. As the student advances to middle and high school, many experts advocate a
student-led IEP process
, which prepares him for the transition into adulthood.
For elementary-age children, discuss questions such as:
What do you like about school?
What do you think you’re good at doing?
What is hard for you at school? What don’t you like?
What works for you in class?
What would you like to work on during the next year?
Parents, as well as the child’s teacher, should reassure the student that they will be at the meeting to help and support him. The entire process and experience must be positive for the child. During the meeting:
Inform the IEP team at the beginning how the student will participate.
Encourage and solicit the student’s inputs and comments.
Compliment him on his views and his willingness to contribute.
If others in the meeting seem to be “grilling” him, redirect their line of questioning.
Allow the student to arrive later or leave earlier, so as to avoid tiring or stressing him.
Most middle school students should attend the entire meeting, but others may leave early.
Teachers can provide materials
to help prepare the student;
may be provided that help the student prepare, in collaboration with his parents. The same positive principles and pre-discussion questions as above can be posed by parents and teachers, in addition to these:
What do you think is a barrier to your success?
Do you ask your teachers for the things that might help you?
High school students are expected to participate in their IEP meeting and discuss their plans for transition to post-graduation activities. Teachers should try to find the time to
provide structured practice
with the student in advance of the meeting.
Research has shown that students gain confidence and communication skills as a result of
leading their own IEP process
. Anecdotes from
graduated young adults
have said that by practicing asking for accommodations and talking with others about their disability, they have found it easier to apply self-advocacy skills in college or on the job.
The IEP meeting—and particularly one that the student leads—helps him develop and
and important life skills:
Goal-setting and teamwork
Understanding the impact of his disability
How to ask for and accept help from others
Understanding and expressing his strengths, needs and concerns
How to negotiate and resolve differences with others
Teachers can instruct and coach
students in how to lead their IEP processes.
What can be gained by student involvement in their IEP process
When students are provided with opportunities for active engagement in the IEP process,
they make gains
in their functional performance, which includes social competence, communication, personal management, behavior, and self-determination.
in turn include a much deeper understanding of self through awareness, observation, evaluation, and knowledge, leading to development of self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy, self-reinforcement, self-advocacy and assertiveness. These skills also promote executive function-related skills such as choice making, problem solving, decision making, goal setting and self-regulation to attain goals.
Furthermore, students who lead their IEP meetings are more likely to take ownership in their IEP goal implementation and their overall education.
Both parents and teachers have a role in empowering the child from an early age toward self-understanding, learning how to leverage his own strengths, and proactively seek accommodations for his weaknesses. Building on those learned and practiced processes can serve the child into a successful adulthood.
More resources for you:
Teacher to Teacher: Supporting Students with ADHD
Teens and Young Adults
Does your child attend IEP or 504 Plan meetings with you?
The IDEA states that a child should attend his or her own IEP conference if appropriate. When is it appropriate, and what is gained by doing so? And how can parents and teachers prepare the child for effective participation in the process?
This article appeared in
November 16, 2017.
The information provided on this website was supported by Cooperative Agreement Number NU38DD005376 funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the CDC or the Department of Health and Human Services.