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Student Led IEP Meetings

2 Essential Benefits of Student Led IEP Meetings

The concept of student led IEP meetings is growing momentum. There has been a growing discussion about including students and allowing them to lead the development of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). While it seems sensible enough to include the student in his or her own IEP development, it has not become a routine practice nationwide. In review of the literature, it appears that the benefits do outweigh the barriers impeding this practice.

“Few things help an individual more than to place responsibility upon him, and to let him know that you trust him.”
                                                                          ~ Booker T. Washington

1. Creating a Positive Collaborative Climate  

The primary education goals for students include success and happiness in life. Student input in their own educational plan can increase buy in, effort, and self-determination. One of the main benefits of the student led IEP is that it creates a much more positive climate for collaborative outcomes to emerge.

As mentioned earlier, with more input, the students can take an active role. This initiates a much more relaxed and positive tone during an IEP meeting. Student led IEPs tend to focus on strengths and accomplishments over the child’s disabilities. When an IEP meeting focuses on growth and effort, the atmosphere tends to be more positive. True collaboration is achieved easier without team members on the defensive.

Parents also find that student led IEPs provide a less intimidating climate and consequently their participation also increases. It also helps parents and educators to see firsthand the growth a student exhibits when leading the IEP meeting. This positive atmosphere allows for increased collaborative discussion and IEP development over the traditional IEP meeting where teachers read an already prepared document to the family.

Students also learn about the IEP process and documentation through the process of active involvement. They too can gain greater insight about the time and effort educators put into IEP development and gain perspective from the educator’s role.

2. Increasing Student Skills

Allowing students to lead their own IEP meeting can foster skill development in three main areas.

  • Self-Advocacy, Self-actualization, Self-confidence Skills  Allowing students to lead their own IEP meeting can help increase self-advocacy skills and independency. Taking over the leadership role can empower students by allowing them to have an active over passive role in their own education planning. Such high level involvement also can increase their knowledge about their disability, limitations, and abilities. This leadership role also enables students to direct discussions about effective accommodations to assist them with learning. As students undertake a more active role, it will increase their self-confidence, help them interact more positively with adults, and assume more responsibility for themselves. Ultimately, students can become increasingly engaged in the process of their own IEP development.
  • Higher Level Cognitive Skills  Self-Advocating for their own educational needs and programs can also significantly improve a student’s higher level cognitive skills. Through their active role, whether they are just starting out or leading the meeting solo, students will gain practice in planning and organizing. From setting up the meeting, to determining what will be discussed, the student will need to analyze information, data, and progress to determine ongoing goal development. Students will be able to increase their analytical skills and make judgments about prioritizing the most salient features of their own education. They will have the opportunity to analyze growth, identify needs, and learn how to ask relevant and provocative questions for planning purposes.
  • Communication Skills  No doubt that when you are leading a meeting, you must possess a certain set of communication skills. Students can learn to introduce people, explain the purpose of the meeting, paraphrase technical or jargon words, ask questions to gain information, choose mediums to communicate progress, take turns talking, and invite others to speak. They will also need to practice active listening, stating opinions and backing it with data, using proper presentation skills (eye contact, tone, posture, body language, closing, and compromising. In the end, leading their own IEP meeting can be valuable real life practice of essential communication skills.

What do you think? Are there other benefits to student led IEP meetings not listed here?

For more information, also see: Breaking Down 5 Barriers  of Student Led IEPs and Student Led IEPs: Putting Proposals into Practice or these sources:


About the Author:  Kelly Ott has over 22 years of experience as a licensed speech language pathologist, consultant, educator and administrator. Kelly has served children and adults with a diverse range of speech, language, swallowing, learning, and communication needs. She has provided direct speech pathology services, specialized tutoring services, educator professional development training, business communication and presentation training. Kelly is dedicated to providing students, educators, and parents with specialized strategies for achievement


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