Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Increasing Student Participation in IEP Meetings: Establishing the Self-Directed IEP as an Evidenced-Based Practice

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Increasing Student Participation in IEP Meetings: Establishing the Self-Directed IEP as an Evidenced-Based Practice

Article excerpt

The importance of teaching students how to be actively involved in individualized education program (IEP) meetings becomes obvious when student engagement in the IEP meeting process does not exist. Without specific IEP meeting instruction, students attending their meetings do not know what to do, do not understand the purpose or what is said, and feel as if none of the adult participants listen to them when they do talk (Lehmann, Bassett, & Sands, 1999; Lovitt, Cushing, & Stump, 1994; Martin et al., in press; Morningstar, Turnbull, & Turnbull, 1995; Powers, Turner, Matuszewski, Wilson, & Loesch, 1999). Considering the fact that IDEA places a great deal of emphasis on IEP meetings being a valid reflection of students' needs and interests, and that a growing chorus of voices believe that secondary students should have an active role during their meetings, what inhibits student participation and what can be done to counteract this lack of participation?

Over 3 consecutive years, Martin, Marshall, and Sale (2004) examined the perceptions of 1,638 secondary IEP team members including students from almost 400 teacher-directed IEP meetings. Students and other team members reported significantly lower ratings on students knowing the reasons for their meetings, knowing what to do, understanding what was said, and talking less than all other participants. General education teachers and students felt less comfortable sharing their thoughts and suggestions than other participants. Special education teachers talked the most, and special educators and parents talked more about student interests than did the students. To verify the survey findings, Martin et al. (in press) observed 109 secondary teacher-directed IEP transition meetings using 10-s momentary time sampling. The results indicated that special education teachers talked 51% of the time, family members 15%, general educators and administrators 9%, support staff 6%, and students 3%. They concluded that "it seems naive to presume that students attending their transition IEP meetings will learn how to actively participate and lead this process through serendipity--yet this is precisely what current practice tends to expect" (p. 4), but it does not need to be this way.

A growing body of research indicates that students learn the skills necessary to be effectively involved in their IEP meetings when they are taught effective leaderships skills, are provided the opportunity to participate, and when the adult IEP team members expect student participation. To improve student understanding of their IEP meeting process and increase student participation at their IEP meetings, Martin, Marshall, Maxson, and Jerman (1997) developed the Self-Directed IEP. By learning to actively participate in and lead their own IEP meetings, students demonstrate goal setting, planning, self-evaluation, mediation, public speaking, and self-advocacy skills. The Self-Directed IEP uses video modeling, student assignments, and role-playing to teach students IEP leadership skills. Snyder and Shapiro (1997) used a multiple baseline design to evaluate the effectiveness of the Self-Directed IEP to teach IEP participation and leadership skills to three secondary students with behavioral problems. Two of the three students showed substantial increases in their IEP participation behaviors, and all students liked using the Self-Directed IEP.

Sweeney (1997) used a nonequivalent group design to determine if instruction with the Self-Directed IEP increased student attendance, student reporting of IEP goals, and student involvement in the IEP meeting. Sweeney grouped students with different disabilities by severity (mild or moderate) and conditions (intervention n = 54, or control n = 15). Compared to teacher-directed meetings, students who were taught the Self-Directed IEP attended significantly more IEP meetings, had significantly higher levels of involvement in their IEP meetings, and knew significantly more goals after the meetings ended. …

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