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Student-Led IEP Meetings: Technology Puts Teens in the Driver’s Seat

IEP Meeting-Idividualized Education Program For the past several years, teachers and parents have been encouraged to let high school students in special education take a more active role in their own IEP meetings. When a high school student participates in this way, he develops and hones his self-advocacy and self-determination skills—skills critical for assuming more control over the direction of his future. Numerous studies point to the connection between student self-advocacy and achieving one’s goals (Agran & Hughes, 2008; Arndt, Konrad, & Test, 2006; Martin, Van Dycke, Christensen, Greene, Gardner, & Lovett, 2006; Mason, McGahee-Kovac, Johnson, & Stillerman, 2002). For example, among special education students who learned the Self-Advocacy Strategy developed at the University of Kansas, 86 percent of the goals they most valued were found in their IEPs. Students who hadn’t learned the strategy had only 13 percent of their desired goals in their IEPs. And despite a wealth of resources offering practical how-to advice and recommendations (Konrad, 2008; Konrad, & Test, 2004; Mason, McGahee-Kovac, & Johnson, 2004; Torgerson, Miner, & Sehn, 2004; Test, Mason, Hughes, Konrad, Neale, & Wood, 2004), the practice of student-led IEP meetings isn’t as widespread as it might be.

This author proposes that incorporating technology in student-led IEP meetings may motivate tech-savvy teens to assume this new responsibility. The use of mainstream technology and assistive technology (AT) can add substance, structure, and creativity to IEP planning and to the IEP meeting itself (and Section 504 plan meetings as well). Let’s look at how technology can help students become more involved and innovative in the IEP process.

Ready or Not?

How can you determine if a student is ready to lead his own IEP meeting? And how will you know if using technology in the meeting is right for him? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Ideally, the student will have participated in at least one of his IEP meetings and is familiar with the process.
  • The student should also be familiar with his IEP and what it means to him and his education.
  • Is the student comfortable using AT and/or mainstream technology? If not, don’t force the idea but encourage him to consider one or two technology tools that might support his participation in the IEP meeting.

Since planning the IEP meeting with your student takes time, try to determine his readiness several weeks (if not months) before his next IEP meeting. Getting buy-in from the student and his parents is critical, so allow ample time to discuss the issue thoughtfully with them.

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Tags: grade9-12