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JACQUI DIDOMENICO: Thank you for joining us as we discuss student voice in the IEP process. My name is Jacqui DiDomenico, and I'm joined today
by Judy Baker as we look and share with you what LEAs can share with parents regarding students participating in the IEP.
The mission statement of the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network is to support the efforts and initiatives of the Bureau of Special Education,
and to build the capacity of local education agencies to serve students who receive special education services.
PDE's commitment to the least restrictive environment. Our goal for each child is to ensure the individualized education program team begins with the general education setting,
with the use of supplementary aids and services, before considering a more restrictive environment.
The PA Department of Education and the PaTTAN system want to ensure to remind everyone that when the IEP team is making a decision about how and where the IEP should be implemented,
the general education classroom is always the first option. The team should determine how the student's IEP could be implemented, including supplementary aids and services,
within the general education classroom. The general education setting includes extracurricular activities and programs that all students have access to.
Here are some of today's outcomes. We hope that by participating in this webinar, that participants will develop an understanding
of how increased student involvement in the IEP process has a positive effect on educational success.
And we hope participants will have a deeper understanding of how to overcome challenges that arise when students have a voice in the IEP process.
Take a moment to consider Nelson Mandela's quote: there can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.
As we talk today about including children and giving them a voice in their IEP process, this quote might resonate.
Some of the factors that impact student voice: value of parent participation, understanding the IEP process for both parents and students, and the value of student participation.
Valuing parent participation in the IEP process can help to build strong relationships between the school and the family members of the student with disability.
Parent and family members need to feel that they are an important component of the IEP meeting. Supporting parents in the IEP process demonstrates that everyone has a stake in the child's education.
Once parents and students have a thorough understanding of the components of the IEP, they will be more informed and better able to make sound decisions about educational programs.
Parents may need some of the following: assistance to understand the IEP process, explanation of educational language and terms.
The LEA should always be available to check for understanding. And the parent should feel comfortable enough to be able to ask questions and get clarification.
Parent participation should not be limited to listening to information about their child's education, answering basic questions, and signing pre-set forms.
Students understanding the IEP process is easier when their parents have been valued members and understand the process.
Efforts should be made to make sure that a student who's joining an IEP for the first time also understands the importance their role plays, as well as if they need to clarify misunderstandings.
Valuing student participation in the IEP process allows the students to actively participate in their education plan.
The student should have a basic understanding of how their goals are connected to their present level, academic achievement,
and functional performance, as well as future aspirations. As a valued member of the IEP team, students can add their input and voice their concerns.
Students as participants. In a study conducted by Wehmeyer and Palmer, and Raskin, Goldberg, Higgins,
and Herman, it was found that one skill set that appears to be associated with successful life outcomes is self-advocacy and self-determination.
The IEP is the most important document developed regarding the student with disabilities at school. During the IEP meeting, critical issues are discussed and important decisions are made.
If the IEP is developed without the student or with limited involvement, the student learns that his or her voice really doesn't matter,
and that important decisions are made for them, not with them, compromising their self-advocacy and self-determination.
How can schools support and promote students' self-advocacy? Provide opportunities for the student to have input on their academic plans, and provide opportunities for student-led IEP meetings.
Research has demonstrated that students with input and connections to their school have increased attendance, achievement, and participation.
By providing students with an opportunity to have this input on their academic plans, schools are empowering them to be more responsible in their academic careers.
Student-led IEP meetings are an important aspect of promoting student self-advocacy. Students learn that they have a voice in their education.
And in turn, it keeps them with important -- I'm sorry, it helps them learn important life skills.
In a study conducted by Mason, McGhee-Kovac, and Johnson, they found that when students were involved in their IEP meeting, they became more responsible,
more aware of their disabilities and abilities, as well as limitations, and interacted more positively with adults. And this, in turn, increased parental participation.
Self-determination: what is it, why is it important, and what are barriers to it? Self-determination is being able to accept, respect, and value yourself. It is being able to set goals
that are important for you, and having the skills to achieve those goals. In order for students to receive protections and accommodations under ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a 504,
the student must be able to describe his or her disability, identify the accommodations and supports they use and/or need, provide necessary documentation to prove the need for such a request.
Researchers have found that young adults with disabilities who leave school with high levels of self-determination and positive self-esteem are more likely to be employed,
be satisfied with their lives, and live independently or with little support from outside their family homes.
Some barriers to self-determination include lack of self-knowledge, overprotection, low expectations, lack of stable support system, and lack of self-esteem.
Lack of self-knowledge means students are not able to understand their abilities or disabilities,
and don't have a good understanding of how to explain their disabilities and/or abilities, and how they impact their school performance and daily life.
Overprotection. Parents are overprotective. Often with children with special needs or disabilities, this overprotection can be detrimental for the child,
and that the child is held back from reaching their full potential. This parent fear sometimes needs to be alleviated to promote self-advocacy and self-determination.
Low expectations. Teachers, parents, and sometimes even students themselves have low expectations for progress or success.
Increasing our expectations of students will allow the child to progress toward his or her full potential. Lack of a stable support system.
Children need to have a stable support system in order to thrive both in school and everyday life. An LEA should attempt to make sure that they can impact a student's stable support system.
Lack of self-esteem. If students do not believe that they are worthy or have difficulty accepting their role in participating in the IEP process
to help set their own goals, they do not believe they will be successful and will not try to actively participate.
I'm now going to turn this presentation over to Judy, who's going to focus on student participation in the IEP meeting.
JUDY BAKER: Thank you, Jacqui. Today, there's research by Becky Hawbecker that demonstrates that students who lead and participate in their IEP meetings are more knowledgeable about the purpose
of the IEP, as well as their own individual goals, objectives, accommodations, and modifications that are needed. Students' participation can change the tone of the meeting.
It gives it a more relaxed, positive atmosphere, and it's focused more on the growth and accommodations and the weaknesses.
And parents have a tendency to contribute more to the meeting and are more -- feel more of a team effort rather than it being teacher-directed.
And there's a rubric that we can use that will help us to determine where students are in relationship to their IEP and the process.
And this will help teachers to help the students become more actively involved in the meetings.
And on just a personal note, I think it's very important that students and families are given the information much earlier than just when they turn age 14,
because it is a long process and the self-determination, the self-advocacy part plays a big part, I feel, in developing students and helping them to lead their IEP.
And there's also -- the Council for Exceptional Children came up with eight steps that can help students to develop their IEP goals.
And they are to evaluate the current performance; choose goals, topic,
or action; determine the conditions; set criteria; write a goal; take action; evaluate; and to determine and make the adjustments.
To evaluate the current performance, they could ask themselves, how am I doing right now? Students can use a statement of their present level of performance to develop these goals.
Elementary students' terms and symbols, such as on my own or independent, or instructional, and not at all, or frustration can be used to identify their areas of strength and needs.
And number two, to choose a goal, topic, or action. They can ask, what can I do to work on, or what am I going to do? Here, the student needs to present an action
that can be physically observed. Each action must have a measurable outcome. While many education goals are standard-driven, opportunities can be provided to exercise choice and ownership of goals.
Number three, to determine the action. They can ask, what am I going to use to reach this goal? Conditions include a level of difficulty, accommodations, modifications, strategies,
or special materials that they need -- would need to perform the action. To set the criteria, it's how will I do what I want to do?
And we need to help students identify a target point that can be reasonably accomplished in the timeframe. Students may over or underestimate the criteria in the beginning,
and experience with the process will help them to set realistic criteria. And I think that is often one of the issues is being realistic when we're setting goals.
And then when they can write the goal. And you can ask, what can I do to accomplish? At this point, a student would use their identified action, condition, and criteria to write the goal.
And we need to assist a student in the formula provided so that they can use -- okay.
And then number six is to take action and do it. Number seven is to evaluate the action, and that is how well am I doing?
And a student can apply the same terms and symbols as in step one to state their performance and progress toward the goal.
Number eight is to determine and make adjustments. They can ask, what do I need to change? What worked, what didn't work, and what would have made it better? To determine and make changes in a goal.
In overcoming challenges, we're going to discuss on the next few slides how to overcome challenges to a student voice in the IEP process.
We have to make sure that we continue to be student and family centered, and that students are participants. And the number one thing is to set realistic expectations.
And often when we start out in the process, students may have like ideas of grandeur, of things that they want to do,
but I think it's really important that we all work together, families and educators, to make sure that they choose realistic goals and expectations for themselves.
We need to make sure that the students and family members understand and can name the abilities and disabilities of the student,
and how this will impact the student's school performance and day to day life. And that's another important thing is the day to day living after school. We need to help the student
to understand their strengths and challenges associated with their disability. And it's very important to allow parents and family members and the student to have input in the goals.
Oftentimes in both the teachers and parents, we do not want the child to attend the IEP meeting. This comes from a belief that they know what is best for the child and need to make the decisions.
Knowing what is best for the child may be true, but allowing the student to participate in the meeting and develop the goals holds the student more accountable to their learning.
Students feel that they have a say and can contribute to their education.
By allowing the student to participate in the IEP process, we are teaching them responsibility in providing them with problem solving that they will need as adults.
We need to make sure, again, that we hold realistic expectations for learning.
Both parents and teachers need to hold realistic but high expectations for students so that they can become successful in education, in school, and later on in the community.
Additional training opportunities are offered all the time through PaTTAN. Each year, the Parent Engagement Initiative runs a webinar series,
and you can visit any of these prerecorded webinars on the archive site. They have every July, usually towards the end of July, the transition conference that's held at Penn State.
And there are often -- in the past, we've been able to offer parent and student scholarships so that they can attend the conference for free.
This year's conference is going to be on Tuesday, July 24th through Friday, July 26th. And there's a wealth of information
on the PaTTAN website that teachers and families and even students can access. And right now, PaTTAN is working on a new transition website that will be able to house all the information
that has been gathered over the years regarding the transition process. And that should be up and running after the first of the year, so that will be an important thing to watch for,
and I'm sure that there will be releases that come out regarding when that is released to the general public.
And at the end of your PowerPoint, there are additional references that you can refer to. There's a lot of information.
And that's pretty much what my part of this presentation is, except that it's very important that we start early on with these students as far as teaching them
about self-advocacy and self-determination, because that is something that they're going to have to use all through their life.
And to have a student that's involved with the IEP and know what's happening is very important for their success. I want to thank you very much for your time today.