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Ask a Self-Advocate: What school districts, parents, and students can do to better prepare students for IEP meetings

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.

What can school districts do?

I think that school districts should do a better job of notifying parents that students should start being invited to IEP meetings and getting transition services when they turn 16. At the last IEP meeting before the student turns 16 (14 in Massachusetts) the school should mention to parents that the student will be invited to future meetings.

What can parents and guardians do?

I think that Special Education Parent Advisory Councils (SEPACs) should have meetings during which parents and/or guardians bring their transition-age children (in MA it’s ages 14 – 22) to meetings and explain IEPs, special education, and transition services. All school districts must have a SEPAC (this is what they are called in Massachusetts; other states may call them something else) as required by law. It is a parent group that advises the school committee about special education issues and provides workshops for parents.

What can students do?

I think that Special Education Student Advisory Councils (SESACs) should be formed to help students, who are 16 and older, better participate in IEP meetings. They can be led by parents or young adult self-advocates who have been through the process before. A SESAC is my term for a group of high school students and young adult with disabilities meeting to talk about transitioning from high school to adult life.

In my next blog, I will discuss some examples of ways school districts can support young adults turning 18 and help them go to college, work, and live independently.

Click here to read the other posts in this series.