How to Involve Students in Special Education IEPs

Get students on board: Student-led IEPs are a recipe for success.

How to Involve Students in Special Education IEPs

IEP Goals9/19/2023

Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) are essential for ensuring that students with special needs receive the support they need. But,  IEPs can be more effective when students are involved in various stages of IEP design and implementation.

When students feel part of the process, they are more likely to be invested in their learning.

Here in this post, we will explore the importance of involving students in their IEPs and discuss practical strategies for achieving meaningful student participation.

Understanding the IEP Process

Creating an IEP provides students with special educational needs with accommodations & modifications to help them succeed in school.

However, before students can actively participate in the special education IEP process, it is essential to understand what an IEP is, what it entails, and how it can benefit them.

One way to help students understand their IEP is to use an IEP tracker software. It is a tool that helps special ed professionals track their progress toward their IEP goals and objectives they are receiving.

Encourage Self-Advocacy among Special Needs Children

Self-advocacy is a critical skill for students with special needs. Therefore, you should encourage them to express their thoughts, concerns, and preferences about their education.

Here are some ways to do this:

  • Talk to them about their disability and how it affects them.
  • Teach them how to ask for help when they need it.
  • Help them develop their communication skills.
  • Encourage them to participate in decision-making.
  • Help them develop problem-solving skills.
  • Provide them with opportunities to practice self-advocacy.

You can be a role model for self-advocacy; create a safe and supportive environment, be specific about what you expect from students, and offer positive feedback when they advocate for themselves.

Achieve Student-Led IEPs through Age-Appropriate Participation

Age-appropriate IEP meetings participation is often crucial for students with special needs. Yes, the level of involvement will vary depending on the student's age and cognitive abilities.

Participation might involve simple choices for younger students, such as selecting classroom materials or identifying preferred learning styles. For example, a young child might be asked to choose between two types of textbooks or indicate whether they prefer to learn by listening, seeing, or doing.

As students get older, they can participate in more complex discussions about their goals, accommodations, and aspirations. For example, you can ask an older student to discuss their college plans or career goals. You can also ask for their inputs on the specific accommodations they need to be successful in academics.

Involving Students in IEP Goal Setting

You can involvestudents in setting their academic and non-academic IEP goals and monitoring their IEP progress. This way, you can  help them take ownership of their learning journey..

When you involve students in IEP goal setting, they are more likely to be motivated to work towards achieving them.

Additionally, IEP progress monitoring can help students track how well they are doing and whether they need additional support in certain areas.

Be sure to follow the SMART criteria when involving students, young or old, in the IEP goal setting process:

  • Specific: A clear and unambiguous goal is essential for success.
  • Measurable: Always set a quantifiable goal.
  • Achievable: The goal should be challenging but realistic.
  • Relevant: Pick a goal that is aligned with the overall learning goals.
  • Time-bound: Set a specific deadline for an IEP goal to stay on track.

Encourage  students to frequently express their goals and work collaboratively to develop & follow a plan to achieve them.

Conduct Student-Led IEP Meetings

Holding student-led IEP meetings is a way to empower and give them a voice in their education. This is more important when students get older and become more independent.

Students can actively discuss their IEP goals and objectives, progress, and strategies for improvement in these meetings. They can also express their thoughts and feelings about their learning journey and how they can be better supported in the classroom.

Actively listen to the students during these meetings; offer support and guidance if the need be.  All stakeholders should be respectful of the student's right to make suggestions about how they can learn.

Help Students Identify their Strengths & Challenges

Can you help students better understand their strengths and challenges related to their disability?

Such information can be used to develop goals, IEP accommodations, and modifications tailored to the student's needs.

Here is what you can do:

  • Talk to them about their disability- Ask them what they find easy and difficult about school.
  • Observe them in the classroom- Pay attention to how they interact with their peers and teachers. What are they good at? What do they need help with?
  • Get feedback from their teachers and other professionals- What do they perceive as the student's strengths and challenges?
  • Use assessments- Use a variety of assessments to assess unique strengths and weaknesses.

Foster a Support Network

Ensuring students understand their support network is important for their success in school and life.

Help your students understand the roles of their parents, special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and other support staff in their education.

Here are some specific examples of the roles that different people in a student's support network might play:

  • Teachers: They provide instruction and support to students. They can help students understand their disability, develop strategies for learning, and access the curriculum.
  • Parents: Students' first and most important advocates, parents can offer support and encouragement to help children communicate their needs to teachers.
  • Special ed professionals: SpEd professionals are experts in working with students with disabilities. They can help develop IEPs, provide accommodations & modifications, and support students in the classroom.
  • Other support staff: Other support staff, such as paraprofessionals, counselors, and social workers, can also play a valuable role in supporting students with disabilities. They can provide individual tutoring, help students develop social skills, and connect students with special education resources in the community.

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