The 5 T's of a Student Led IEP

Recently I jumped head first into my first ever Student Led IEP. My first year as a special education teacher was only half time in a school and district I had been in for four years already. My colleagues and administrators knew I was headed into new waters transitioning from a general education teacher in an elementary multi-grade level classroom to a K-12 special educator. Needless to say, I had a great deal of support and mentoring to help me transition into the world of special education.

Following that year, I moved to a new community, school, and district. Gone was my safety net of coworkers who knew I was new to special education. Gone was my amazing special education admin and mentor who'd helped me learn the paperwork and the ins and outs of conducting iep meetings. I was now on a staff with people who assumed I was the expert!!

Reflecting on that first year my most significant take away was the lack of involvement students had in the iep process. So my professional goal for the upcoming year as a full-time, assumedly sped expert, was to implement student led ieps. There was a sense of freedom found in my new coworker's unabashed faith in my level of expertise, so I capitalized on it to get over my own sense of fear.

Two weeks into my new school year as I started to build relationships with the students on my caseload and build rapport with their parents, I picked the student who I wanted to work with on my little project. He was by far the most challenging student on my case load, but I believed this project would have the greatest impact on him as a young man and his academic trajectory.

In early October, I ran the idea by his parents. While they were hesitant due to the emotional turmoil it may cause, they were excited by the idea and agreed to let me help their son conduct his own iep, which wasn't due until early March.

The first T that had to be established was Trust. I had to build trust with the parents, and I had to build trust with the student.

This trust was built by the second T: Transparency. I had to be as transparent as possible with both my student and his parents, so that they would begin to trust me and my judgment. This transparency led to the third T: Tough conversations.

We had behavioral, psychological, and OT experts in to observe and assess my student. The feedback and reports led to tough conversations, but because I was determined to create trust, I had to be as transparent as possible with BOTH the parents and their child.

These tough conversations came from a place of the fourth T: Team work

From the get go, I established a sense of team work with the parents and my student. They needed to know I was in their corner. I was in their son's corner. Every office referral, bad day, frustrating outburst I was there in their son's corner advocating for him. Every great day, awesome report, I was there to praise him and celebrate with his parents.

The last T and perhaps most significant after Trust was Time

I invested a great deal of time both in and outside of school. I made it a habit to communicate with my student's parents either by a quick text on my lunch break or after the school day. I spent time on the phone talking with them, sometimes just being an ear to listen. I invested time during the day with my student. Going out of my way to greet him at his locker in the morning. 

The iep process itself took time. We gave up a full 7 days of math instruction (the only class period I have him for) to write and create the slide deck he used for the iep meeting. As content teachers, giving up instruction time for non-content related activities can cause great anxiety. We need to embrace the notion that education isn't just about content. Students' development on a human level is just as significant as content, probably even more significant. 

If you are entertaining the idea of student led ieps, please stay tuned as I will be writing in greater detail about each of the 5 T's and the specific process my student and I took to create his Student Led IEP.

Teach in the way they are smart.


Popular Posts