Introduction to Module
Life can present challenges and major changes for all young people. Self-determination allows young people to make choices and decisions to direct their own lives. Self-directed learning encompasses choice- and decision-making skills. Tools to assist all students in the process are Student-led IEPs, One Pagers and Student-led conferences. In addition, a Brookes publication, authored by Thoma, C. & Wehman, P. (2010). Getting the Most Out of IEPs: An Educators Guide to the Student-Led Approach provides research and numerous examples of how students can be involved in their IEPs.
Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings have often been a source of contention between families and educators as they come together to determine the best ways to educate individual students. Historically, students did not attend their IEP meeting or if they did they would sit quietly, with little involvement. In recent years, in Virginia and across the nation, students are “leading” their IEPs in many different ways. We are going to share with you some ideas, videos and resources to help to get your student involved in leading his own IEP.
The following is an excerpt from “Why is This Cake on Fire?”
Imagine being a small child and hearing your parents talk about your birthday party. You hear the excitement in their voices as they talk and plan, starting with a theme for the party…And then your birthday comes and goes, but no one ever invites you to your party…Maybe they just forgot to invite me, you think.
Several years later, when you become a teenager, you barely catch a snippet of a conversation about your birthday party. But since you have never been invited before to your parties, you know that your presence there is not important…But this time you receive an invitation…You are surprised, confused, and even scared.
Now read this excerpt again, but this time, insert “IEP” in place of “birthday parties.”
Resources for Student-Led IEPs
The I’m Determined website has resources to assist IEP teams as they seek greater student involvement in the process. Tools such as an introduction to student-led IEPs, a brochure for students to learn various ways they can be involved, and tools and templates students can use to share information about themselves with their IEP team are all available on the I’m Determined website. Click into “Student Involvement” for booklets, templates, and video clips to help you get started.
Introduction to IEP meeting
Student-Led IEP PowerPoint
Videos Demonstrating Impact
“Student Involvement in the IEP” (Captioned version available on request)
“Elementary: It’s All About You! Get to know your IEP” (Captioned version available on request)
Please visit the Student Involvement section of this website to view and download the “IEP Participation Brochure.”
Tools to Assist Students
In the following booklets, students learn about the parts of the IEP and the input they provide in the development of each part. Download and print out a booklet for each student or use the digital version to make adaptations to meet the learning and communication style of the individual. One booklet is designed for elementary and the other for secondary students.
Sample Student PowerPoint’s
One of the ways in which many students lead their IEPs is to introduce the meeting by sharing a presentation that reflects their preference, interests, needs and strengths. Depending upon the age, communication and learning styles of the student, the presentation might be in different formats. These examples include preschool to high school students.
History & Impact
All students regardless of age or disability can be involved in the development of their own IEP. The One-Pager was developed by a mother/special education teacher/vocational evaluator and her middle school son in order to assist the student in participating in his IEP meeting. Since second grade when the student was first diagnosed with a learning disability the mother would write a letter to all of her son’s teachers stressing the son’s preferences, interests, needs and strengths. The letters were long and it was often felt that teachers were unable to really see the purpose in them. In hopes of condensing the information, the One-Pager was created and it provided a “snapshot” of all the information the son and mother wanted conveyed to the IEP team. Utilizing the One-Pager now allowed the student to lead his IEP meeting.
The One-Pager was shared at an I’m Determined workshop and the concept became an integral way of giving students a way to participate in their IEP meetings. For students who may be reluctant to speak at their meetings, video clips were added to the One-Pagers by the Self-Determination team. This allowed those students’ voices to be heard. Now entire schools are utilizing the One-Pagers as a means for all students to share their strengths, preferences, interests, and needs with teachers, guidance counselors, community agencies, and employers.
The One-Pager template is located on this website. It is also available as a free interactive App on iTunes.
Tools for Gathering Information
The One-Pager represents information about the individual’s strengths, preferences, interests and needs (SPIN). Depending on the age of the student, the methods for gathering information and the information itself will be varied. Sample One-Pagers are also found on the site; simply use the search term “one pager” in the search box at the upper right corner of this page. Also watch the video clips for tips on getting started with One-Pagers and some ways to adapt the One-Pager.
“…this practice is the biggest breakthrough in communicating about student achievement in the last century. When students are well prepared over an extended period to tell the story of their own success (or lack thereof), they seem to experience a fundamental shift in their internal sense of responsibility for that success. The pride in accomplishment that students feel when they have positive story to tell and tell it well can be immensely motivational. The sense of personal responsibility that they feel when anticipating what it will be like to face the music of having to tell their story of poor achievement can also drive them to productive work.” Rich Stiggins, Phi Delta Kappa, November 1999.
Student-led conferences allow the student to take charge of his/her academic conference with his/her parents. The teacher acts as a discussion facilitator or coach if necessary. The outcome is increased accountability as the student moves from a passive to an active participant in reporting their academic progress.
During the conference, students share their portfolios or data folders, which contain academic and behavioral performance and progress as well as other data collected.
Learn more about student-led conferences by viewing the following PowerPoint presentation:
A School’s Experience Reported in Virginia
Spaulding, S. & Hogsett, A. (Sept. 2009). Student-led conferences help students become more self-determined. Retrieved January 17, 2011 from VCU TTAC’s Innovations and Perspectives
Highlights of Research on Student-Led Conferences
Student-led conferences are emerging as a way to actively engage students in their learning process, wrote Donald G. Hackmann, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State University in an ERIC Digest, “Student-Led Conferences at the Middle Level.” Following are some of the benefits of student-led conferences listed in Hackmann’s article:
- Students assume greater control of their academic progress.
- Students accept personal responsibility for their academic performance.
- Parents, teachers, and students engage in open and honest dialogue.
- Parents attend conferences at increased rates.
- Students learn the process of self-evaluation.
- Students develop organizational and oral communication skills.
Additional Links to Websites/Articles:
Setting up a portfolio-samples and forms/template
After reviewing the module, consider the following questions for further discussion:
- Name three ways students can lead or participate in their IEPs
- Comment on the effectiveness of the One-Pager to communicate SPIN with others.
- What are the pros and cons of implementing student-led conferences?
Functional performance includes social competence, communication, personal management, behavior, and self-determination (Training and Technical Assistance Center, 2014). Self-determination skills include self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-concept, self-esteem, self-efficacy, assertiveness, self-advocacy, choice making, problem solving, decision making, goal setting, goal attainment, self-observation, self-evaluation, and self-reinforcement. When students are provided with opportunities for active engagement in the IEP process, they are more likely to develop self-confidence and self-advocacy skills (Center for Family Involvement, 2009; Mason, McGahee-Kovac, & Johnson, 2004). Further, students who lead their IEP meetings are more likely to take ownership in their IEP goal implementation and their overall education.
The Virginia Department of Education’s (2015) I’m Determined website offers resources and videos for educators and families who support the development of self-determination skills of students with disabilities, including how to support students in participating in and leading their IEP meetings. For example, in the video Determined Student Involvement in the IEP, students, parents, and teachers describe the value and importance of student involvement in the IEP process.
While students should be involved in all parts of the IEP process – pre-meeting, meeting, and implementation, it is important to first assess students’ readiness for participation and leadership in each part of this process (Sitlington, Neubert, Begun, Lombard, & Leconte, 2007). Such information will inform the level at which students demonstrate readiness to participate as well as the need for specially designed instruction to increase that level of participation. To assess students’ knowledge related to the IEP process and their readiness to participate, use the rubric provided on the I’m Determined website.
As part of becoming ready to participate, it is important for students to understand the significance of the IEP process. For students who do not demonstrate readiness to participate or actively engage in this process, specially designed instruction may be needed (Sitlington et al., 2007; Wehmeyer & Field, 2007). For example, students will need to (a) learn skills that promote self-advocacy such as assertiveness and communication skills (Wehmeyer & Field, 2007); (b) understand the importance of expressing themselves openly and honestly within the IEP meeting process; (c) demonstrate both verbal and nonverbal communication skills, including listening, persuasion, and negotiation strategies; and (d) acquire self-evaluation skills so they can support data collection for IEP planning. The article How to Help Students Lead Their IEP Meetings (Mason et al., 2004) and the I’m Determined website provide resources to help students develop these skills and prepare for active involvement in their IEPs.
Properly prepared, students should engage at all phases of the IEP process; however, the level of participation during the actual meeting often varies from student to student (Sitlington et al., 2007), ranging from presenting limited information during the meeting to leading the entire meeting. For example, one student may present information related to preferences and interest only; another student may explain his disability, share strengths and needs, and describe helpful accommodations; whereas a third student may lead the meeting entirely.
The I’m Determined site includes resources to support students in planning for participation in the IEP meeting including:
In addition, the Center for Family Involvement (2009) also provides templates that students may find helpful in supporting the development of their IEPs. These electronic templates are also included in the book It’s All About Me! A Step-by-Step Guide for Creating My IEP. This book may be checked out at TTAC WM library (call #IE33).
Following the IEP meeting, students can partner with their teachers to monitor their progress on IEP goals. Thus, teachers can plan daily, weekly, and monthly activities that engage students in ongoing data collection at their readiness level. Charts, graphs, and other visual representations may assist students in this process (Peters, 1990). The resourceStudent Involvement in the IEP Process provides tips and strategies to support student participation in their IEPs and in progress monitoring during IEP implementation.
Finally, it may be helpful to gather feedback from students and parents regarding their experiences with student-led IEPs. The I’m Determined website provides access to surveys that may be used with elementary students, secondary students, and parents.
Student-led IEPs support the development of students’ self-determination skills and provide an avenue for them to have a voice and a choice in their education program (Sitlington et al., 2007). Important components of this process include assessing students’ readiness to participate, providing specially designed instruction for skill development to support participation, and supporting student engagement in progress monitoring. “Although the IEP process is only one forum where students with disabilities can demonstrate self-determination skills, it does provide a valuable context for assessing student readiness to initiate self-determined behavior in multiple settings both within and outside the educational setting” (Sitlington et al., 2007, p. 37).
Center for Family Involvement Partnership for People With Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University. (2009). It’s about me! A step-by-step guide for creating my IEP. Richmond, VA: Author.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, 20 U.S.C. §300. (2004). Retrieved from http://idea.ed.gov/download/statute.html
Mason, C. Y., McGahee-Kovac, M., & Johnson, L. (2004, January/February). How to help students lead their IEP meetings. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 18-24. Retrieved from http://www.ciclt.net/ul/mgresa/2.howtohelpstudentsleadiep.pdf
Peters, M. T. (1990). Someone’s missing: The student as an overlooked participant in the IEP process. Preventing School Failure, 34(4), 32-36.
Sitlington, P. L., Neubert, D. A., Begun, W. H., Lombard, R. C., & Leconte, P. J. (2007). Assess for success (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Training and Technical Assistance Center at the College of William and Mary. (2014). Transition planning for a brighter future: Designing IEPs for secondary students with disabilities. Retrieved from http://education.wm.edu/centers/ttac/resources/considerations/index.php
Virginia Department of Education Self-Determination Project. (2015). I’m determined. Retrieved from http://www.imdetermined.org/
Wehmeyer, M. L., & Field, S. L. (2007). Self-determination: Instructional and assessment strategies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.