“What do you want to be when you grow up?” All of us have heard this type of question at one time or another in our lifetime. However, when asking a student who has a disability, the answer to this type of question is the base on which an individualized educational plan (IEP) and post-secondary transition plan is formed. As students mature, they begin to advocate for their learning needs. At the same time, they struggle with speaking about themselves in front of their parents and teachers. For students who present identified learning disabilities, talking about oneself becomes even more difficult. In a world where information is generally presented every day in the same way, a child with a disability must learn to express exactly what they need to be able to work and learn effectively.
Our goal at Mexico 59 School District is to transition to student-led IEP meetings to better serve the needs of our students and offer positive outcomes for all parties. Actively participating in a learning plan improves self-knowledge, increases determination, and teaches one to self-advocate. In providing the opportunity to assist in building their educational plan, students have an increased awareness of their disability and the parts of the IEP process. As adults, we prepare plans to help us make decisions so it should not be surprising how powerful it can be for a student to discuss what makes them more successful in the learning process.
Being disabled doesn’t mean you “can’t,” it means “in a different way.” In the dictionary you will find the suffix “dis” means to duo, one notion of “two ways, in twain.” Hence, another way of doing and being. Disability means an ability to do or be something in another way. Student-led IEP meetings are part of effective teaching practices, providing students with a platform to identify their goals and learn to speak for themselves. Student-led IEPs will help prepare students for the time in their adult lives when they will no longer have access to the school based resources and advocates.