Guiding Teens With Learning DisabilitiesYou and your child should prepare for the IEP meeting in advance to help you make the most of the transition planning process. Preparing your child for the IEP meeting IDEA requires that students attend their IEP meeting once transition planning begins. If they do not attend, the school must ensure that their preferences and interests are considered throughout the process. To give your child the best possible preparation for her IEP meeting, you’ll need to make sure that she has learned and is prepared to take an active role by self-advocating. Active engagement by students leads to more positive feelings about the entire process; everything will proceed more smoothly if your child is involved.
While the ideal scenario is for students to lead their own IEP meetings, it is the rare teenager with LD who is equipped to do so. However, it is very important that she participate to the maximum extent possible. Most teenagers with LD will be able to participate at least minimally if they have received explicit instruction in how to be engaged in the process. Providing a student with the self-advocacy skills needed to participate in and even lead an IEP meeting can be built into her IEP as a goal in the years leading up to the start of the transition planning process.
I found that having my son [at the IEP meeting] “opened his eyes” as to the “importance” of education, and it even helped my son get a better understanding of the countless hours I’ve spent trying to research and learn and advocate for his needs.Parent tips for preparing your child for the IEP/transition planning meeting Although most teachers agree that a student’s involvement is important, too many lack the training and time to make this a focus of instruction. Urge your child’s teachers to make training in IEP participation a teaching priority, and refer them to StudentLedIEPs.org and Student-Led IEP's: A Guide for Student Involvement (available through the Council for Exceptional Children). Both are good resources on the topic of student engagement in the IEP process.
—“Healthy11,” message board post on SchwabLearning.org/teens
Work with your child’s school to help her prepare for the transition planning IEP meetings. Empower her with knowledge about the process itself. She needs to understand that the point of the meeting is to make a record of her strengths, areas of challenge, and goals-and then to devise an individualized plan for capitalizing on her strengths, improving her areas of challenge and achieving her goals. Further, she needs to know about:
- The procedures of the IEP meeting.
- The IEP document and its purpose.
- Who attends the meeting, and why.
- The agenda of the transition-specific meeting.
Assure your teen that her participation is both welcome and necessary. Let her know that the team will be receptive to her questions and suggestions about her needs and what she knows works well for her. Remind her that she should not feel pressured into making decisions she is not capable of handling, and that she has the option to step out of the room to discuss a decision in private with you or with any other advocate she may have invited for additional support.
Ask her teachers to offer her the opportunity to role-play an IEP meeting ahead of time. As she role-plays with a teacher or advocate, she should especially practice:
- Introducing herself and the other team members.
- Stating the purpose of the meeting (“We’re here to discuss my IEP, to get updated on how I’m doing, and to set transition goals for me.”).
- Opening the discussion about her past goals and how she has progressed toward meeting them.
- Describing her academic and non-academic strengths, areas of challenge and interests (what she likes to do now and what she'd like to do more of in the future).
- Expressing her vision for her future and participating in setting goals to achieve her dreams.
- Describing the types of supports she believes she needs to achieve her goals.
- Thanking the team members for attending at the close of the meeting.