“Student Involvement in IEP’s” – EdCampDelta

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Recently I had another great opportunity to attend EdCampDelta. [Storify] The first session I attended was on “Digital Literacies/Tattoo.”  An excellent choice. [Notes] The second session I attended was on “Student Involvement in IEP’s.”  At last year’s EdCampDelta I attended a session on “How do we identify and teach students with learning difficulties” [Post].  There was a strong student presence and voice which was impressive to hear, but it was also enlightening and instructive.  This session this year had a greater educator presence – both classroom teachers and special education teachers. Many of the comments & thoughts in the session resonated:

  • “How do we make IEPs more effective? Start with student involvement.”
  • Sometimes we feel we have to own IEPs. Positive/effective student involvement changes the game
  • “Writing IEPs – are they about the child or the funding?”
  • “Looking forward to moving away from mtgs about students to mtgs WITH students”
  • “We need to involve Ss early in the IEP process so they can self-advocate for how they learn best.”
  • The more students w/ IEP’s can self-advocate, the better. How do we help students build those skills and confidence
  • “Talking about working together with families. Imp for school to share ‘we care about your child too – we’re on the same team.’ “
  • Is an IEP a stigma? Do parents think it closes doors vs opens doors?
  • “IEPs can create a fear of closing doors from the parents perspective when it’s about keeping as many doors open as possible.”
  • “We need to demystify the IEP process and stress a team approach in building a learning plan. This should include student voice.”
  • “Having Ss involved in IEPs can help getting the goals simplified and attainable.”
  •  “Students are so much more empowered when they have all of the information when helping create IEPs.”
  • “IEPs – let’s move away from deficit model to starting with strengths.”
  • Need to help build advocacy skills in students w/ IEP’s
  • “Students will better understand their learning needs if they can be part of their IEP process.”
  • If we embraced personalized learning, would we blink an eye at IEPs?
  • ” ‘collaborative problem solving’ model for writing IEPs. Kiddo – what do you need to be ‘successful’? “
  • “Student involvement in IEPs = building self advocacy.”

Last year’s blog post following EdCampDelta described the story of a young student in elementary school who went from being incorrectly labeled as an ESL student, to being assigned to a class with what appeared to be limited in-class support for her diagnosed learning difficulties and limited communication with her parents, to a situation in which the classroom teacher worked parallel and together with the student’s resource teacher to create a situation in which she flourished. Particularly impressive was the student’s involvement in leading her IEP meetings.

In the Spring of that year the student’s classroom teacher announced her retirement.  The announcement must have had quite an impact on all the students in the class and their parents.  It clearly had an impact on the parents of this particular student.  On one hand they were of course very happy for the teacher, but, at the same time, distressed, for their daughter had become a different student.  Still struggling – but a confident student who had a greater awareness of her strengths and her challenges, and an emerging understanding of the need to self-advocate.

What followed were subsequent meetings with the classroom teacher and resource teacher and also meetings with the principal.  Had the classroom teacher not been retiring there would be no question that the student would continue in the same multi-grade class until grade 7.  However, not knowing who the incoming teacher would be to take over the class, a special program for students with learning difficulties became an option.

The process of trying to make a decision between keeping the student in a regular classroom with resource support or placement in the special program was very difficult.  Would she struggle in a regular class with a different teacher and teaching style?  Would the teacher in the special program be a good fit?  Would placement in the special program set her up for success or failure in Grade 6 and 7?  Secondary School???

In a meeting with both the classroom teacher and resource teacher, the parents, and the student, the teachers suggested that they would work with the student on a plus/minus chart.  Good, but the suggestion was also that the parents give their daughter a week to work it through without discussing it at home and that “she” would then make the decision about her placement for the following year….

The parents in the end agreed to give their daughter the week, meanwhile discussing what to do if their daughter made the “wrong” decision.

After a week had passed the student went to her parents with her pluses and minuses.  The positives in staying in a regular classroom were focused on friendships, an aspect which could not be minimized.  The positives in moving to the special program were focused around the individualized support she would receive, but concerns about missing her friends.

Ultimately, the student decided a move to the special program was the way to go and that she would have to make new friends.  The parents supported her choice.

This year she has continued with confidence, clearly enjoying the class and her new friends and conscientious about her homework – reportedly getting up at 5:30 a.m. if she realizes she’s forgotten to do her homework the night before….

The parents have taken a leap of faith. Time will tell if the move will lead to success… but what growth they have seen in their daughter since she has become actively involved in her education – including her IEP.

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