Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Mar 06
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by Dennise Goldberg

We as parents spend a lot of time advocating for our children when they are young.  However, there comes a time when our children become older and they have to learn how to advocate for themselves; knowing when the time is right will depend on your child.  If your child is still attending elementary school, they are most likely NOT mature enough to participate.  For those of you who have children in middle school, now is the time to think about the prospect of someday having your child attend their own IEP meeting.

When you and your child have come to the conclusion that they are ready to participate in their IEP meeting….then by all means, bring them in!!  When they first attend, it’s not necessary to bring them in for the entire meeting.  It’s important to make them feel comfortable and let them know that the team is there to help them in school.  The purpose of the IEP is not to discipline your child but to encourage them to become an integral part of some of the decisions pertaining to their IEP.  When you have finished discussing whatever you needed with the school, then bring your child in to participate.  It’s important to make it a positive experience so they are not afraid to participate….it can be frightening for a pre-teen/teenager to walk into a room by themselves with ten adults staring at them.

A good time to bring them into the meeting is when you are reviewing the goals and accommodation sections of their IEP.  When your child enters the room, everyone should let him/her know how important is for them to be a part of the IEP meeting.  When the meeting is finished, your child should receive praise for participating so that they are encourage to attend in the future.

When it’s time to discuss the goals and accommodations, it’s important for your child to know that everyone is aware of their areas of need; their input on how to provide to assistance in school is crucial to their education.  The goal is for your child to verbalize what methods help them in school and which ones do not….which is the beginning of self advocacy.

Like I stated earlier, the age or grade at which a child is ready to participate will depend a lot on maturity.  Some kids will be ready in 6th grade, or maybe not until 7th or 8th grade.  My son’s IEP is next week and he told me he wasn’t ready to attend.  I told him maybe next year; if not, it’ll be 8th grade.   I say 8th grade because that will be his transition IEP before high school and I would like him to become comfortable advocating for himself before beginning high school.

This brings me to my next point…high school!  For those of you who are not aware, before your child’s 16th birthday a Transition Plan must be in place.  It should be based on your child’s needs, strengths, preferences and interests.  The plan has 2 parts:

  • Goals that are measurable and based on age appropriate transition assessments; and
  • Transition services needed to assist your child to receive post-school outcomes.

In order to accomplish this, your child must attend the IEP meeting.  In addition to that, when your child reaches the age of majority they will have the authority to sign their own IEP’s (which is most commonly your child’s 18th Birthday but depends on State Law).

It is a scary thought that someday our children will no longer need or want us to advocate for them; which is why it is so important for our children to learn how to advocate for themselves.  If they can begin to learn how to do this at an early age, then hopefully it will prepare them to continue in high school and beyond.

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4 Responses to “The Importance of Including Your Child in Their Own IEP Meeting”

  1. I do try to include even my 1st grader in some of his IEP planning. part of it, is figuring out what his learning style is by observing him and talking with him. This can help insure the accuracy of the Present Levels of Performance and the strengths the child has. Recently, he has greatly improved his behavior that had lead to a change of setting to self contained. I spoke with him if he wanted to start going back to Mainstream with his mainstream teacher and he said “No, I have too much to do for Mr. O.” which actually told us a lot that he was concerned about not being able to meet everyone’s expectations. He obviously doesn’t know everything that is going on, but he is only 7.

    Keep in mind, your child does not necessarily have to attend the meeting to participate. A friend of mine and I came up with the idea of having her son record on his iPad a message to the IEP team that share some of the things that he feels he wants to share (generally, what he is liking, what he doesn’t like, what isn’t helping, what he thinks may help him with certain behaviors, etc). This child is a 6th grader and is nervous about speaking to adults; but have him sit down with his iPad and he’ll talk away.

    Point is, whether he is 7 or 17, we can start working on those self advocacy skills for our children. We live in a day of almost everyone has some kind of technology that can record a video (most phones would work for this) and give them a chance to share there thoughts with the IEP team. So why not?

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  2. We want my daughter to attend her next CSE meeting for next years planning it is in 2 weeks and school has tramatized her so bad she is scared to go.. She has recently been taken out of school because of immune issues and it has been a real battle with school getting a set schedule when Ashley is at her best. Then to top it all off the school adminstartion has stopped all communications with staff at school and our family except the therapists that come to the house. This has been a real negative situation for my daughter. No one realizes what she goes through on a daily basis also no one wants to see what me as her parent is going through. School just says that I am a combative person. Well I am when it comes to my daughter getting violated.

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  3. Although it is a great idea to include the student in the IEP meeting, each case is different, which must include the emotional maturity level of the child. Middle school is definitely the place to consider this inclusion, but the child needs careful before-hand explanations as to the “whys and where-for’s” and what is to be accomplished. If they show signs of resistance or objections, it is better to wait another year, and then “try again” – with caution, of course.

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  4. I believe we need to listen to what our children want. I think any student is able to be there for at least part of it. They need to be able to tell there strengths and likes. Once they are in middle school they should be fully participating. My fifth grade son directed his IEP this year. All kids have dreams to share.

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