An important part of self-advocacy for youth with disabilities is taking an active role in their IEP meetings. Your child’s IEP is a roadmap for planning their future. It shows where they want to be and how they are going to get there.
Students are strongly encouraged to participate in or lead their IEP, especially those related to transition. IDEA requires that students participate in some way starting at the age of 14. If the your child does not go to the meeting, the school must take steps to make sure that your child provides information about what they like and are interested in and that the team takes into account those thoughts and ideas.
The earlier your child is involved indevelopment of their IEP, the better. Participating in this process helps your child to develop self-advocacy skills and to understand why their IEP is important. Paying attention to what is in the IEP is how your child will make sure they learn the skills in high schoolthat they will need to live the life they want after high school. Students who practice leadership skills in IEP meetings and other settings while in high school are also more successful in jobs, college, trade school, volunteering, etc.
Here are some ways your child can be involved in their IEP meeting.
- Help schedule the day/time of the meeting
- Invite people important to their life to the meeting
- Help decide the meeting agenda
- Plan what they will ask/tell the IEP team
- Lead all or part of the meeting
- Share what they are good at and what they need help with
- Help draft goals
- Ask questions about things they do does not understand
- Respectfully advocate for things they need
- Respect and listen to input from other IEP team members
- Thank the IEP members.
Remember to talk early and often to your child about their interests, strengths, and supports needs. Be sure they are practicing and learning to effectively share their opinions in a way that works for them. Allow your child to explore their own interests and preferences, which may be different than yours.
Teachers can also provide support by helping your child to direct their IEP meeting and by including goals on the Transition IEP in areas like self-determination and self-advocacy. Teachers should give students plenty of opportunities to practice “speaking up.”