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Ask a Self-Advocate: What is an IEP meeting?

This post is part of MAC’s “Ask a Self-Advocate” blog series. This series was written by “JOSO*,” MAC’s 2017-2018 Young Adult Leaders Fellow, who is an autistic young man. The Young Adult Leaders Fellowship provides an opportunity for young adults aged 18-26 with intellectual disabilities and/or autism to learn the professional skills needed to advocate on behalf of other youth with disabilities. “Ask a Self-Advocate” was JOSO’s final project for the Fellowship and will include 13 posts published through the end of the year.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

My suggestions are based on my own experience. I realize that what worked for me may not work for everyone else.

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a document that describes the needs and goals of students with disabilities in elementary, middle, and high school each year. An IEP team is a group of people that meets yearly to discuss changes made to the IEP. The team includes the student if they are between ages 16 (14 in Massachusetts) and 22, the parents or guardians, the teachers, the special education coordinator, the principal, and other people who provide services to the student and / or the parents or guardians.

By law, I was supposed to be invited to my IEP meeting when I turned 14 because I live in Massachusetts. However, I was not invited to my IEP team meeting until my senior year of high school. It was not really an IEP meeting per se because during this meeting, I was trying to decide which college to attend. Everyone looked at me and asked me what I thought. I was not used to that and was a bit confused by the meeting.

Why it is Important for Students to Participate in their IEP meetings

I think it is important for students to know what an IEP is and to have a basic understanding of the special education system. I think that parents and/or teachers should talk to students either before the meeting or at the beginning of the meeting to help them understand what the meeting is going to be about beforehand.

I also think that it is important for students to participate in their own IEP meetings because this teaches them how to self-advocate and helps them learn more about themselves, their disability, and their needs. Also, students might have different personal goals for when they leave high school than their parents do and they can express these goals at the meeting.

In my next blog, I will talk about what I liked and disliked about my IEP team meeting experience.

Click here to read the other posts in this series.