Student Led IEP Meetings – Giving Students the Power

IEP implementation is demanding for special education teachers. Students are evaluated and based on their strengths and needs, a plan drafted and implemented. Evaluation and reevaluation reports often list needs including, “math fluency, reading fluency, organizational skills, executive functioning skills … SELF ADVOCACY.” As committed and diligent special educators, drafting IEPs includes SMART goals and SDI that address these needs. Finally, the team meets around a table and discusses IEP implementation. Hopefully, the team will ask the student if they understand, how they feel, etc. But what if the student were to explain what they need themselves?

Crazy? No! Students are constantly looking for ways to express themselves. Unfortunately, the adults in their lives often assume they know best what their students need. While experts in the field, educators must step back and give students the opportunity to speak up. IEP meetings provide an opportunity for students to not only express themselves but advocate for what they want. Additionally, IEP meetings create a safe place for students to advocate for what they want while also realizing that they have a team of supporters behind them. As with everything in education, it just requires some planning! Here’s how:

1) Discuss the Disability

Discuss the student’s previous IEP and evaluation with them. It is important to ensure that the student understands their disability and how it impacts them. Many students find themselves overwhelmed with frustration without knowing why they do not grasp certain concepts. Understanding their disability helps them cope with their difficulties and tackle challenges.

2) Create Student Vision

Knowing their disability, what does the student want? Whether they are in elementary school or their last year of high school, every student has aspirations. Take their aspirations into consideration and allow that to be the driving force for the discussion regarding the student’s IEP. This step is key in developing student buy-in.

3) Review Goals and SDI with the Student

Go over the student’s goals and discuss how they are measured as well as what the student believes is achievable. Then, review the accommodations. Does the student believe there are too many? Or maybe there is something they would like to add to the IEP. This gives the student ownership and will motivate the students to advocate for their accommodations.

4) Set an Agenda

Create an agenda for the meeting with the student. Again, whether elementary school aged or high school aged, there is a place for the student to lead the meeting.

5) Facilitate!

This time, try to lead less and facilitate more. Of course, guiding the conversation will be needed at times, but allow for the student to take the reigns. Special education teachers should let the team members know that it will be a student led meeting beforehand. Once the team members know it will be student led, go over what it looks like to be supportive in this setting. For many adults, it is a foreign concept.

Once the meeting is complete, gather feedback from all members and follow up with the student. The process will not work unless the student knows that their suggestions are considered and followed. This concept is not necessarily new, but scary for many (including the student!). However, after the first meeting is complete, every other meeting goes more smoothly. Who knows Рthe student may even be advocating to exit special education!

Planbook Plus allows special education teachers to not only create their own custom plan, but also provides areas for the teachers to take notes during the process and during the meeting. It would also be beneficial to assign the individual student a reflection question upon completion of the meeting!