At what age should a child participate in their own IEP meeting and development of that IEP?
I recently received this question from a mom California:
My son (14) has an iep meeting this week and I’m not sure what to ask for for help He has a primary diag of ED and secondary ADHD also ODD. He barely scraped by his freshman year with d’s only failing English. His worst subject too much writing for him. He does not have a learning disability. His grades have already dropped the first month of sophomore year. I’d like to ask for help with notes and an outline of lessons along with instructions. Extra time for big assignments home work & class work. Designated area for test. His behavior has gotten a lot better as he matures but he is still some what defiant at times. Any feedback would help.
First, yes, she received guidance as to how to proceed to get a more solid IEP. But her email brought another thought to mind, her son and self-advocacy.
So I asked this mom: Have you tried asking your son? Now, I realize that his ODD diagnosis can be very challenging and a real struggle when it comes to participation and self-advocacy. But have you tried using him and his input as a partner in the process? Has he said what is the hardest part for him?
To answer this question, there is a legal answer and a real-life answer.
When must a child participate in their IEP?
Never. IDEA says they must be invited starting at age 16. Some states have lowered that to 14. But it just states invited. They can decline the invitation. IDEA also states ‘that the public agency must include the child with a disability at the IEP meeting whenever appropriate.’ But still not requiring the LEA to invite the child until they are transition age.
The Real Life Answer
Here is the answer I give to clients and friends when they ask. “A child should participate in their IEP at the earliest age possible, to the maximum extent possible.”
If attending the meeting just isn’t a good idea, there are other options. Just because I recommend having any aged child participate, that doesn’t mean I expect all kids with IEPs to sit through 2 or 3-hour meetings.
There are other options.
- Write a letter stating a few things that they want the team to know.
- Have them dictate what they want the team to know to a parent.
- The parent can be the scribe, or you can use a phone to record it.
- Attend the first five minutes of the meeting. Say hello, read a prepared statement, then leave.
- Walk the child through the proposed IEP-just the parent and a teacher, make notes as child digests the information.
Bottom line is this. I’m not going to live forever. Neither are you. Self-advocacy skills don’t just appear at age 14 or 16 or even 25. Our kids take longer to learn things. Presumably, this would include self-advocating. The earlier you start, the better. The key is, just like the parent, the child needs to have meaningful participation in the process.
As with anything, this is a family decision and one that should be discussed with your child. If your child is going to be belligerent and defiant and refuse services, you may want to rethink how they can have meaningful participation.
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