Attention Students: Lead your own IEP meetings and take charge of your future

A Brief Overview

  • By the time you are 16 years old, the school is required to invite you to your IEP meetings. You can attend any time, and leading your own meeting is a great way to learn important skills.
  • If you need more help at school or aren’t learning what you need to learn, then your IEP might need some fixing. Your voice matters on the IEP team.
  • A website, I’m Determined.org, provides videos of students describing their goals. You can also print a goal-tracking worksheet from that website.
  • Read on to learn more about the parts of an IEP and how to get more involved in your own education.

Full Article

If you are a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP), read this article to find out how you can be a leader on your IEP team. Your future is counting on you!

By the time you are 16 years old, the school is required to invite you to your IEP meetings. From that year on, your school program is matched to your long-term goals. It’s important to plan your time carefully so that every school day gets you closer to where you want to be when you are an adult. 

Learn to be a self-advocate

 An advocate (pronounced ad-vo-cut) is someone who asks for something in a public way. Public schools get money from the government, so they are considered public entities. When you ask the school to provide you with something that you need to succeed, then you are being a self-advocate.

The word advocate can also be an action word (a verb), but then it’s pronounced ad-vo-cate (rhymes with date). You advocate for yourself when you ask for what you need to succeed.

Here’s another way to use this hyphenated word: You can say that you “practice self-advocacy.” Leading your own IEP meeting is a great way to practice self-advocacy and develop important adult skills.

Your Transition Plan focuses on where you want to go

 The part of the IEP that focuses on your adult goals is called a Transition Plan. The Transition Plan is added to the IEP by the school year when you turn 16. The plan includes details about:

  • when you plan to graduate (you can stay in school through age 21 if your IEP goals require more time)
  • what jobs you might choose
  • whether college is part of your plans
  • what lifestyle you imagine for yourself (will you drive, cook, shop, live alone?)
  • how school is getting you ready for all of that

The Transition Plan is all about you and your future. You can start taking charge of your future by going to your IEP meetings. You may want to lead all or part of the meeting, and you have that right.

The law says it’s all about you

Your rights as a student with an IEP are part of a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The IDEA says that schools must include family members and students on the IEP team. If you don’t play on the team, you can’t win the game, right? This is more important than a game—it’s Your Life!

The IDEA is a unique law because it says you get what you need in order to access school and learning. Getting an education that is specially designed just for you is called an entitlement. What you are entitled to is called FAPE, which means Free Appropriate Public Education.

You can become a leader on your IEP team by learning more about FAPE and how to talk about what it means to you. Public education is free for all school-age students in the United States, but consider this question: What makes your education appropriate?

Here are some questions to help you think and talk about FAPE:

  • What is it like to have a disability?
  • What about your disability makes school hard?
  • What do you need at school that helps you learn?
  • Are you getting better and better at the skills you need to be good at?
  • Are your teachers helping you see what you do well?

If you are learning important skills at school, and your learning is helping you build on your strengths, then you are probably getting FAPE. If you need more help or aren’t learning the skills that you need to move forward, then your IEP might need some fixing. Keep in mind that the school is responsible to provide you with FAPE. You have the right to ask for FAPE.

Learn what your IEP can do for you

Here’s a starter kit to help you understand what your IEP says and how you can ask for changes. When you go to your IEP meeting, you have the right to ask the teachers and school administrators to help you read and understand your IEP.

These are some important parts of an IEP:

  • Category of Disability: This is on the “cover page” of the IEP document. It lists the type of disability that best describes why you need individualized help at school. You should know this category so you can understand how and why teachers are supposed to help you.
  • The Present Levels of Performance: This is the long section at the beginning of the IEP that describes how you are doing and what the school is helping you work on. The beginning of this section lists what you are good at. Make sure that section is complete so you can be sure the teachers help you build on your strengths.
  • Goals: When you qualified for an IEP, the school did an evaluation. You showed that you needed to learn certain things with instructions designed just for you. To help you learn, the teachers provide Specially Designed Instruction. They keep track of your progress toward specific goals in each area of learning. You can learn what your goals are and help track your progress. A website, I’m Determined.org, provides videos of students describing their goals. You can also print a goal-tracking worksheet from that website.
  • Accommodations: You can ask for what you need to help you learn in all the different classrooms and places where you spend the school day. Do you learn better if you sit in a specific part of the classroom, for example, or if you have a certain type of chair? Do you need to be able to take breaks? Do you do better on tests if you take them in a small, quiet space instead of the regular classroom? Do you need shorter assignments, so you don’t get overwhelmed? Helping your teachers know how to help you is part of your job as an IEP team member.

Get Ready for Your IEP Meeting

You can get ready for your IEP meeting by looking over the IEP document.  You may want to ask a family member or a teacher to help you read through the document. If you don’t understand what’s in your IEP, plan to ask questions at the meeting.

PAVE provides a worksheet to help you prepare for your meeting. It’s called a Student Input Form. You can use this worksheet to make a handout for the meeting or just to start thinking about things you might want to say. If you don’t want to make a handout, you might draw pictures or make a video to share your ideas.

These sentence starters might help you begin:

  • I enjoy…
  • I learn best when…
  • I’m good at…
  • It’s hard for me when…
  • I want more help in these areas…
  • I like school the most when …
  • Teachers are helpful when they…
  • I want to learn more about …
  • It would be great if…

You may want to think about your disability and how it affects your schoolwork. You could work on a sentence or draw a picture to help the teachers understand something that is hard for you. These might be the parts of a sentence that you can personalize:

  • My disability in the area of …
  • makes school difficult because…

Your handout can include a list of what you want to talk about at the meeting. Here are a few ideas, but your options are unlimited:

  • A favorite class, teacher or subject in school?
  • A time during the school day that is hard for you?
  • Your IEP goals?
  • Something that helps you feel comfortable and do well?
  • Something you want to change in your school schedule or program?
  • Graduation requirements and when you plan to graduate?
  • Your High School and Beyond Plan? (see information below)
  • Anything else that’s important to you?

High School and Beyond Plan

Maybe you started talking about what you might do after graduation when you were in middle school. Washington State public schools are required to help all students begin a High School and Beyond Plan by 8th grade. Ask a teacher, a school counselor and/or your parents if you haven’t started one of those: It’s required so you can graduate from high school.

It’s never too soon to think about what you want to do in the future. When you start building an IEP Transition Plan, it’s critical to think and talk through your ideas and how you see yourself moving forward. Here are some starter questions: 

  1. Where am I now? (strengths, interests, abilities)
  1. Where do I want to go? (aspirations, dreams, expectations)
  1. How do I get there? (goals, courses, activities, helpers, accommodations)

Here are some additional questions to help you plan:

Jobs, Trades, & Work

  • What jobs would be a good fit?
  • What training and/or supports will you need?
  • Does your IEP include community work experience?

Education after high school

  • Do your personal goals include college or technical school?
  • What accommodations will you need?
  • Have you contacted Disability Support Services on campus?

Living arrangements

  • Will you live with family, a friend or on your own?
  • How will you cook, clean, shop, & get around town?
  • Does your IEP have goals for Independent living?

Community experiences

  • What will you do for fun?
  • Will you join a club or support group?
  • How will you make friends and keep in touch?

It’s never too soon to plan ahead!

Setting goals and making some 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, which is another great two-part word to learn. Self-determination means you make choices to take control of your life. At your IEP meeting, you can practice describing what helps you or what makes your life hard. 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.

Here are links to more ideas and tools to help you get involved in your own future planning:

The Center for Change in Transition Services has a toolkit for youth

Youthhood.org also has resources designed just for you

 

The School Might Call to Ask About a Young Adult’s Experience After High School: Here’s Help to Prepare

Post-Graduation Survey Support for Families

Each June 1-Nov. 1, Washington school districts call the homes of former students to reconnect and see how things are going. The information that families share helps the state make decisions about educational programming for students in special education.

If a school district representative calls, the interview will be about 15 minutes long and will include questions about work, further education and whether the student had support from any agencies while making the transition from high school to whatever came next. The caller might be a teacher, secretary, or other staff member.

By answering the survey questions, families provide valuable information that helps improve transition services for current and future students with special education programs. Families with youth still in high school can prepare to participate in this survey after graduation by making sure to provide a teacher with a reliable way to reach the family after graduation (phone, email, text).

Below are a few tips to help you plan for this interview, in case you get called. For a longer version of this guidance, visit the website of the Center for Change in Transition Services (CCTS), which is operated by Seattle University. CCTS provides the “Post-School Survey Student and Family Guide” as a Power Point and/or a downloadable handout in both English and Spanish.

All information is kept confidential. The data are summarized into reports about the post-school outcomes of students throughout Washington State. A statewide post-school outcome report is published by CCTS every December. School district reports are also published in December, and families can request a copy form the district.

Here’s a summary of questions. Families can prepare by writing down the answers and having them ready to access for the telephone survey, which is not pre-scheduled:

Work:

  • Is the young adult working? If so, where? How long?
  • How many hours? What are the hourly wages, or how much is being earned?
  • Whom does the young person work with?
  • If not working, what was the most recent job and its pay?

Schools and Vocational Agencies:

  • Is the young adult going to school? If so, where? How long?
  • Has the family or young person contacted any service agencies for support?
  • What service help is being given or lacking? For example, is the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) or a supported employment agency such as Trillium, WorkSource, Vadis or another company helping?

 

Washington’s 2019 Law Adjusts Graduation Requirements

The Washington State Legislature passed a law in 2019 that changes graduation requirements and may impact students who receive special education services. House Bill (HB) 1599 changes the rules about which tests students must pass in order to graduate and how they can earn a diploma.  

The new law removes the direct link between statewide assessments and graduation requirements by discontinuing the Certificate of Academic Achievement (CAA) after the graduating class of 2019 and the Certificate of Individual Achievement (CIA) after the graduating class of 2021.

Students in the class of 2020 and beyond will need to demonstrate career and college readiness through one of eight graduation pathway options that align with the High School and Beyond Plan, a requirement for all Washington students. The High School and Beyond Plan (HSBP) is expanded by the new law, and districts will be required to provide an electronic HSBP platform available to students beginning in 2020–21.

After-high-school plans are a critical aspect of the Transition Plan written into a student’s individualized Education Program (IEP) by age 16, and the expansion of the HSBP provides for improved alignment between these future-planning tools.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is the agency responsible for oversight of all public schools and non-public agencies in Washington State. OSPI maintains a website page with information about graduation requirements. Visit OSPI’s Graduation Requirements page for compete and updated material. The page includes a link to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

This article provides a brief overview of the new requirements, and parents can take this list to an IEP meeting to ask questions and create a plan to ensure graduation success. For more general information about planning for the transition from high school, take a look at a Recorded Webinar on PAVE’s website and/or read an article called Tips to Make a Well-Informed Transition into Life After High School.

Class of 2019, Take Note!

Some students in the Classes of 2014 through 2019 may be eligible to have their assessment graduation requirements waived in English language arts (ELA), math, or both. The Expedited Assessment Appeals Waiver requires that the student show that he/she has the skills and knowledge to meet high school standards and possesses the skills necessary to successfully achieve college or career goals established in the High School and Beyond Plan.

Students may use one of the following to meet the assessment graduation requirements:

  • Graduation standard on Smarter Balanced or WA-AIM (ELA and math)
  • Passing a dual credit course
  • Passing a Bridge to College course
  • ACT or SAT score
  • Advanced Placement score
  • Passing Locally Administered Assessment (COE-Local)
  • Grades Comparison
  • CIA cut-score on Smarter Balanced (“L2 Basic”) (for some students with disabilities)
  • Locally Developed Assessment (LDA) (for some students with disabilities)
  • Off-grade assessment (for some students with disabilities)
  • Expedited Assessment Appeals Waiver

Further information about the waiver is provided in an OSPI Bulletin.

Class of 2020: What will change?

Students will need to demonstrate readiness for post-secondary career or college via one or more pathways. Students in the Class of 2020 will also have access to a waiver. The pathways available to the Class of 2020 are:

  • Graduation standard on Smarter Balanced or WA-AIM (ELA and math)
  • Dual credit
  • Bridge to College
  • C+ in AP, IB, or Cambridge class or achieving certain score on AP, IB, or Cambridge tests
  • ACT or SAT score
  • Also, if completed during the 2018-19 school year: Locally Administered Assessment (COE-Local) This option is not available in 2019-20.

Students must demonstrate skills via a pathway for ELA and math. The above options can be used interchangeably to meet both requirements.

Transition from Child Based to Adult Based Services in Behavioral Health

From Child to Adult

Transition to adulthood is difficult for all young adults, but if you are a young adult who utilizes Behavioral Health or Substance Use Disorder services it can be confusing and overwhelming. It is also difficult for the parents and guardians who support them. Moving from child based to adult based services takes some preparation to make it easier and it ideally should start a year or more before the shift. Depending on the intensity of need and the way that the disorder is affecting the young adult’s decision making skills, it can be helpful for you, as the guardian, to check and see if your youth’s current providers have transition support.

  • If transition planning is not available, you can go and visit companion adult based service providers to get information on how their system of support works. You can also ask how to find a new provider.
  • If this is a young adult on Medicaid, the regional Behavioral Health Organization should have contact information and locations for these providers.
  • If you are under private pay or employer based insurance, you will need to reach out to your youth’s current behavior health provider and/or therapist to see if they have some recommendations or can do a transition plan of care.
  • If you go to two different providers for therapy and medication management you will need to connect with both.

Behavioral health and substance use disorder privacy laws have some very strict rules in place around shared information concerning the youth’s treatment plan, and if you are not a part of a wraparound or WISe program, you may have a more difficult time with providers responding to your inquiries. Ask for generalized information that can be applied to anyone about how the system works. This keeps it from being about a specific person and makes it easier for behavioral health professionals to share their processes with you.

The young adult accessing these services may want to participate in this process themselves. This can allow you to be a side-by-side support and they can give permission for you to be with them as they explore. Understand that once they are shifted to adult services, unless you have guardianship or they are determined to be incompetent or a danger to themselves or others, you will no longer have any decision-making power. Doing ground work ahead of time allows for a smoother transition and helps them maintain care longer.

Things to look at when planning for transition:

  • Wait times to see the provider.
  • Is there medication management out of the same office?
  • Do they have an adult based wraparound type system?
  • How accessible is the building and is it on a bus or transit line?
  • Does the adult provider have a relationship with the current provider?
  • Who is another trusted support person if your young adult no longer wishes you as a parent or guardian to be involved?
  • What community supports need to be in place to for your young adult to be successful (smart phone apps, state community living supports like food stamps, SSI, disability bus pass, etc.)?

The key to prepping is creating a communication pathway ahead of time so that you can support your young adult as they transition. In the Behavioral Health System, at age 13 youth can demand that they make their own decisions in their care. This means starting at age 11 or 12 can help them in making smarter choices where their own care is concerned. Working to become a trusted support for both the therapists and your youth, as well as starting the conversations early, makes all the difference in the world.

World Psychiatry

US National Library of Medicine

Mental Health Services for Young People

Transition Between Child and Adolescent Mental Health 

Can I still walk with my classmates at the end of my Senior Year, if I participate in a transition plan?

Information on Transition Plans

Students often ask the question “If I participate in a transition plan between the age of 18-21, does that mean I can still walk with my classmates at the end of my senior, or fourth, year?”  The answer is a resounding YES!!

In 2005 State Legislation passed Engrossed Substitute Senate Bill 5450 – “Kevin’s Law”.  This law insures that young people who have been enrolled in high school can attend and participate in graduation ceremonies with their peers, even if they will continue at the school with services to age 21.

The law does not guarantee that a student will be able to attend school until age 21, as that is determined as part of the IEP at age 16. This law states that a student with an IEP and who has a plan in their IEP that includes attending school until age 21 may walk in the graduation ceremony with students of his or her own age.

More info? Ask us! Fill out our Get Help form and find out how we can help you!