Students participate more if they are trained in self-directed IEPs

iStock_000004896500XSmallThere is growing evidence that middle school and high school students play a more active role in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings and are more invested in the process when they have received specific instruction on how to lead their own meetings. A study published in the Spring 2006 issue of Exceptional Children shows that children trained in the self-directed IEP model:

–start and lead significantly more IEP meetings;

–significantly increase talking during their IEP meetings;

–engage in other IEP leadership behaviors;

–have much more positive perceptions of their meetings; and

–are more satisfied with discussions about transitioning from school.

Researchers observed 130 IEP meetings in three rural and two suburban districts in one southwestern state. There were 52 IEP meetings at three middle schools and 78 meetings at six high schools. The meetings focused on the education
needs of 83 males and 47 females.

Students do not know what to do

Using a time-sampling technique, researchers measured the percentage of intervals team members talked and the percentage of time they discussed post-school transition goals. All participants in the meetings were asked to complete post-meeting surveys. Special education teachers completed a pre/post ChoiceMaker self-determination student
skill and opportunity assessment.

According to the researchers, previous studies have shown that “without specific IEP meeting instruction, students attending their meetings do not know what to do, do not understand the purpose of what is said, and feel as if
none of the adult participants listen to them when they do talk.

Earlier research (Martin, Marshall, and Sale) with the momentary time sampling found that, typically, special education
teachers talked about 51% of the time during IEPs, family members 15% of the time, general educators an administrators 9%, support staff 6% and students 3%.

In this study, students were randomly assigned to a control group and to an intervention group in which students had training in the Self-Directed IEP. Students in the intervention group received multi-media instruction in the 11
steps of the Self-Directed IEP. The training materials included a video showing a student modeling the 11 steps of the process, a detailed teacher manual with scripted lessons, and a 27-page student workbook.

Teachers review with small groups

The students were taught in groups a few weeks prior to their IEP meetings; teachers then briefly reviewed the Self-Directed IEP leadership steps with individual students shortly before their meetings. In contrast, teachers of students in the control group were asked to conduct the IEP meetings using their typical teacher-directed methods.Students in the intervention group were more likely to start the meeting and spend more time talking.

The amount of time intervention students spent talking increased fourfold, to about 12% of the time. However, the overall
length of the meeting did not increase.

Researchers noted that meeting participants, on average, discussed transition issues 24% of the time. The Self-Directed IEP intervention did not impact the amount of time the IEP team spent talking about transition issues. Special education
teachers clearly dominated those discussions.

Students only talked about transition issues 10% of the time, although they reported an increase in their positive views of transition with the intervention.

Students need to discuss transition

The researchers noted that middle and high school review meetings need to focus more on transition issues and allow the student’s own vision to guide the planning process. They observed that transition discussions were most frequent when the IEP meetings included representatives from the career technology centers who could engage students in very focused vocational interest and skill questions

“We believe students need to increase the percentage of time engaged in actual transition discussions,” the authors note. “More emphasis must be placed on specifically teaching students how to participate in transition discussions.”

Some 71.5% of the students in the observed IEPs had learning disabilities, 8.5% mental retardation, 7.7% other health impairments, 3.1% Asperger syndrome, 1.5% orthopedic impairment and 4.6% had a disability that the researchers could not identify. About 84% of the students were Caucasian, 9% African American, 4% Hispanic/Latino and 3% multi-cultural
(mostly Native American). Sixty-five of the students were randomly assigned to the intervention group, which received the special training, withan equal number assigned to the control group.

The teachers in this study had never before used the Self-Directed IEP and researchers note that “as teachers continue to use the Self- Directed IEP to instruct future students, the teachers’ experiences and expectations will most likely expand. They will make the program their own while increasing student and IEP team expectations.”

They recommend that administrators establish expectations and arrange needed training for IEP team members to fully understand their role in encouraging active student involvementin IEP meetings. They also urge that similar instruction be included in university teacher education programs.

“Increasing Student Participation in IEP Meetings: Establishing the Self-Directed IEP as an Evidenced-Based Practice”
Exceptional Children,
Volume 72, Number 33, Spring 2006, Pps 299-316.

Published in ERN
May/June 2006 Volume 19 Number 5


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