A girl with a headset on smiles at a computer screen, while a visually impaired man stands behind her and smiles as well.

Student-led IEPs and the importance of active participation

Active participation in building an IEP improves outcomes – especially for transition-aged students

As part of student-focused planning, teachers and other school personnel help a student to be more actively involved in planning for his or her life after high school. One important way to accomplish this is by teaching a student how to be a participant in the IEP process and in planning his or her post-secondary goals. However, simply inviting a student to attend an IEP meeting is not enough.

Participation should be active and ongoing and could include:

  • Identifying strengths, needs, interests and preferences
  • Developing self-awareness and an understanding of abilities and disabilities
  • Learning to identify and describe accommodations
  • Gaining an understanding of rights and responsibilities
  • Developing a vision statement
  • Participating in self-assessment, goal development and progress monitoring
A male student using a brailler with a mask and headphones on

Once a student reaches age 16 (or earlier, depending on state requirements), the student must be invited to the annual IEP meeting. Per the IDEA, “The public agency must invite a child with a disability to attend the child’s IEP Team meeting if a purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals for the child and the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals under §300.320(b).”

If a student has been participating in the ongoing transition activities listed above, they will be better prepared to take an active role in their IEP. 

Students of all abilities can participate in these activities; special education teachers, speech language pathologists, and occupational therapists are valuable resources to assist with choice making, communication and self-regulation.

Students with disabilities who have strong self-determination skills and who understand and participate in the development of their IEP have better academic and transition outcomes…and experience a higher quality of life, and greater independence.

(Konrad, Fowler, Walker, Test, & Wood, 2007; Shogren, Wehmeyer, Palmer, Rifenbark, & Little, 2015)

Preparation and accommodations to support the student

Specific preparation and collaborative activities leading up to the meeting may include:

The student may benefit from accommodations and other forms of support to promote active participation in the meeting:

Additional resources for students

Ready for more? Read this.

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Q&A with educational consultant Allan Blume on well-written IEPs

An educational consultant shares what to look for in your student’s IEP.

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