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  • Writer's pictureSarah Tira

Self Advocacy

In most cases, if your child has a disability, it is going to impact them in some way for the rest of their life. Because of this, it is important to teach your child about his or her needs and how to express those needs to the adults around them. Sometimes IEP meetings can focus a great deal on a child’s deficits, so especially for younger children I don’t think it’s appropriate for them to take part in the actual meeting. But, even children as young as three can help their parent or teacher make a collage that discusses what they like and don’t like! Adults on the IEP team can use that as a jumping off point when discussing things like behavior management or token reward systems. This information can also be helpful as teachers develop high interest curriculum for your child.

As your child reaches the late elementary years, they can begin to discuss their strengths and weaknesses as they relate to school and school related activities. This can be done from a collage, by making a list, or even by making a power point that includes work samples. At this age, most children don’t attend IEP meetings, but this discussion can be done with the special education teacher and/or parent before the meeting and presented to the team by one of the adults.

As your child reaches the middle school years, he or she may be ready to pop in for part of the meeting. At this age, it’s important for your child to begin to take ownership of his or her learning. A great way to do this is to get them to understand what their IEP goals are and how they can work toward achieving them. Over the years I have seen some wonderful goal reports completed with children of all ability levels. Especially if your child is progressing in his or her goals, this can be an excellent opportunity for him or her to present the progress to the rest of the IEP team!

Once your child has reached the high school and transition age, they should have an active part on their IEP team. Educational rights transfer to them at the age of 18, so it’s more important than ever to help them understand the process! As a teacher, I worked with my high school students to develop a power point about their transition plan goals. My students would present this power point at the start of IEP meetings, and it was a great way for us to keep the meeting positive and student-focused. Before the IEP meeting, your child can also work with you to discuss any concerns about his or her education and you can add those to the parent concerns section of the IEP.

Of course, child involvement in an IEP meeting is always up to parent discretion. In some circumstances it may not be appropriate, and that’s ok. But, even outside of an IEP meeting, there are still ways to help your child understand how he or she learns and why. I want to hear from you! How have you seen IEP teams involve students in the past?

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