Preparing for Your IEP Meeting
The best way to begin this whole IEP thing is to talk with your family, teachers, or someone you like at school about how you can be actively involved and how to lead your meeting.
1st Step: Ask to See Your IEP
If you've never seen your IEP, that may be a good first step. Your school office or special education teachers will have a file for you with your IEP and the results of some of the tests that you've taken over the years. If you can't understand some of the language, sit down with your mom, dad, guardian, Youthhood Guide, or teacher and ask them what things mean. Don't be surprised if you find you are feeling confused, if this is the first time that you have seen your IEP. Sometimes it can feel bad to read about yourself, especially if what you read is mostly about the things you need help with.
You may find that your IEP goals and objectives are totally focused on what the tests say about your disability and the things in school that you're struggling with. It may not sound very supportive. That's why transition is a great time! You can focus on what you're interested in, what your hopes are for the future, and what makes you want to stay in school and keep learning. It is also a time for exploration! All teens are exploring, that's part of what you do when you're planning your future.
2nd Step: Ask Questions
After you've read your IEP and other things in your file, think of questions that you have about your IEP and your disability. How does your disability affect you at school? Talk to those on your IEP team about the things that have worked for you in class or other places. You may want to invite a person to your IEP meeting who is just a little older than you and who has the same disability, and have them talk about the disability and how it has affected their lives.
Lots of teens are very curious about how their disability may affect their
future, but are a little nervous about asking questions. Here are
some questions that some other teens have asked:
- How did I get my disability?
- How will my reading disability affect my ability to get a job?
- If I have children, will they have my disability?
- Will I ever be able to have a job to pay for everything I need?
- Can I go to college with a disability?
- What can my school do to help me with learning?
3rd Step: Invite People
Since this is your IEP meeting, you can invite anyone you want to come to it. Certain people must attend your meeting because it is in the law. This includes:
- A School Administrator
- A Special Education Representative
- A Regular Education Representative
- Your Parent or Guardian
But you can actually invite others who you think will help you make a great IEP. Think about these questions:
- Who makes me feel good about who I am?
- Are there any relatives, friends, neighbors, or employers who I think could be part of my team in planning for the future?
- Who knows me best?
- Do I have a role model who I would like to include in my team -- someone at my church, my school, or in the community?
You must also be invited to your IEP meeting. One way to make sure everyone that needs to be invited really is invited would be for you to invite them. You can do this in any way that is comfortable for you. No matter which option you choose, make sure the people you invite understand the purpose of the meeting, and know the date, time, and place. Make sure you work with your IEP case manager (usually one of your teachers has this role) to do this so that you both know who will be invited.
Options for inviting people might include:
- Compose, write, and print a letter. Send it to everyone you want to come to your meeting. If you need help composing the letter, ask your IEP case manager for help.
- Compose an email about your IEP meeting and send it to everyone you want to attend the meeting.
- Call people and ask them over the phone.
- Talk to each individual in person and invite them to come.
- Ask your parent to help you invite people.
4th Step: Develop a List of Accomplishments
Now that you've identified and invited people who you feel comfortable with, ask someone to help you develop a list of all the things you did in the past year that you are proud of. This will help your IEP team understand what you CAN do. To get you started, Youthhood has a List of Accomplishments you can fill out and bring to your IEP meeting.
The list can include things you have done at school, at home, in your neighborhood, at a job, or as a volunteer. You should include the things you want to share with your IEP team that you are proud of - things that help them to see your skills, abilities, and talents. This also can help your IEP meeting start out positively.
5th Step: Develop a List of Goals
Develop a list of goals or things that you want to accomplish over the next year. This can be things like taking a biology class, having a job during your school day, visiting a college that you want to know more about, or learning how to set up a checking account and pay for bills. Believe it or not, the day will come that you will have to pay for toilet paper, juice, rent, hamburgers, phone bills, and toothpaste!
Youthhood can help. Your Life Map has a place to write your goals down and is already organized for you to use. That means you can just concentrate on deciding what's important to you to work on for the future.
6th Step: Develop an agenda
Develop an agenda to use at your meeting. An agenda is a list of all the things that you want to talk about during your IEP meeting. Meet with your IEP case manager and go over your meeting agenda so that you're well prepared. Make copies and hand them out to people as they come to your meeting. If you want to, ask your IEP Case Manager to provide support to you and help you lead the meeting the first several times you do it so that you can get the hang of it and feel comfortable.
Here's a sample of how an agenda might look:
- Introduce and welcome everyone
- Share my list of accomplishments
- Share my list of goals for the year
- Discuss what I can already do
- Discuss what I still need to learn how to do
- Identify resources that might help me to achieve my goals
- Develop an action plan using my Life Map
- Transfer my Life Map goals onto my IEP (case manager)
- Thank everyone and adjourn the meeting
Try a Youthhood activity: