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Student Involvement in the IEP

there is still cold weather in the forecast here in Massachusetts, I’m told
it’s spring!  Along with the potentially
warmer weather, spring also means end-of-the- year reports and for many of my
students, IEP and 504 meetings. Decisions made in these meetings impact our
students for the next year so careful planning is critical. Along with the
academic goals, self-awareness and self-advocacy are important areas to consider.
It’s never too early to involve students in the IEP and 504 process and this
specific instruction can be written into the IEP as well.

factors that impact such lessons are the student’s level of maturity and parent
consent. I often start talking with my students about the IEP in kindergarten
or first grade. I communicate with the families about the purpose of such
lessons as well as my plan (whether I’ll use the actual document, just show the
goals, or present a simplified version for younger students). Some parents
don’t want their children to see the original document, feeling that what is
written focuses on the deficits and could make the child feel bad. In those
cases, I can usually work with the parent and create a modified document for
instruction purposes that emphasizes growth and success, such as the
self-evaluations which I described in a previous post. By late elementary/early
middle school, my students and I talk about the IEP and the meeting in more
detail. By then, parents are usually comfortable and familiar with the process
and its benefits. Even though students are not required to attend the meetings
at that age, some may stop in for an introduction at the beginning, or if they
will not make an appearance, I bring the material we’ve worked on such as a
statement from my student with what they want included under Strengths, Vision
Statement, and Current Performance for each goal. By the time students
start attending meetings in high school, it’s all very familiar. 

There are many kid friendly IEP guides on the
internet which I often modify to fit the needs of my individual student. In addition,
I emphasize that because the student has hearing loss, adults want to make sure
they are successful in school and an IEP is a document that makes sure they get
what they need. We talk about accommodations and highlight the skills we work
on in individual sessions as well as the carryover I look for when I observe in
class. Whenever I observe in class, I share my notes with students no matter
how young they are and we always bring it back to the IEP. We set goals
together which keeps the student involved and informed (e.g. When I observe, I want to see you raise your
hand two times, and tell the teacher to mute/un-mute the microphone …).

While the teams that I work
with generally value such relevant, experiential learning, it still must be
“measurable” in order to get written into the IEP. A sample objective under the
Self Advocacy goal might read:

will demonstrate an understanding of her IEP accommodations by advocating for
their application in all school settings with decreasing adult support. 

This allows me to work 1:1 with my student, to help
the student  apply skills in the
classroom with appropriate observational documentation, and move the student  towards independence. Then I can work on
applying the accommodations in other school settings and involve the student in
refining what is written or adding to the accommodations for the next IEP

Similarly, objectives such
as the two below, allow me to formally work with
my student on self-evaluation and move from the highly supported to more open-ended
evaluations that I described in an earlier post. In reports, I state
specifically what supports I start with and where we end up. This documents the
decreasing adult modeling, and is therefore “measurable.”

will demonstrate increasing responsibility for her academic progress by
formally reviewing her IEP objectives on a quarterly basis with decreasing
adult modeling.

will explain how hearing loss impacts her ability to access her education by
participating in monthly / quarterly / weekly (you decide) formal progress
monitoring with decreasing adult support. 

may take up only a small percentage of the total time working with students,
but it influences the entire process. The more engaged and involved students
can be early on, the more ready they will be to actively participate when the
time comes.

Links to Student IEP Guides:

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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