If you are a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), you are in charge—even if no one ever told you that!
This individualized program and all that paperwork are about you: your goals, skills, interests…. As members of your IEP team, the school and your parents are offering to help you be your most awesome self, but you are the expert about your own life. Leading your own IEP meeting might be a great way to start taking charge of your education and your future.
If you’re getting close to your 16th birthday, you’ll want to pay extra attention to this idea because a Transition Plan gets added to your IEP in the school year when you turn 16. You may have started planning when you were middle school, when a teacher or counselor probably started helping you work on a High School and Beyond Plan. This plan is required for all students to graduate in Washington State. Now is a good time to take another look and think a little more carefully about what you want to do in the future. Here are some starter questions:
- Where will you work?
- Do you see yourself in college or in a vocational program?
- Are you going to drive or cook or take a bus to the grocery store?
Setting goals and making some preliminary plans now will help your school and family help you make sure you’ve got the right class credits, skills training and support to make that shift out of high school easier.
Being a leader at your IEP meeting is a great way to build skills for self-advocacy and self-determination. That means you can speak up for yourself and help others help you. At your IEP meeting, you can practice describing what helps you or what makes your life harder. You get to talk about what you do well and any projects or ideas that you get excited about. In short, you get to design your education so that it supports your plans to design your own adult life.
You can also invite other people to your IEP meetings. Maybe you have an aunt or a brother who knows you well and might have some great ideas? You can invite anyone to help you create a better IEP. Remember the first letter in IEP stands for “Individual.” That’s you, so speak up!
Here are links to more ideas and tools to help you get involved in your own future planning: