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In the United States, a typical way to measure a student with disability’s progress is the Individualized Education Program (IEP). An IEP sets goals for the future which are updated every year. Although Covid-19 can affect students and may change the way IEP meetings are conducted, the meetings remain crucial. In this blog post, I will explore the effect Covid can have on IEP meetings and how students can manage them.
Covid-19 can pose challenges for students with disabilities, including in Delaware. According to this
Wilmington News Journal article about remote learning,
some districts determined in March during the first two weeks of closed schools that IEP requirements did not need to be met. However, the Delaware Department of Education made clear that state rules do not override federally-required rules such as IEPs. In the final week of March, school districts were directed to begin remote learning plans, including provision of accessible education. Students with disabilities must be part of remote learning. Both federal and state departments of education have stated that flexibility will be allowed given the pandemic. The article states that school districts are encouraged to find creative ways to meet student needs and communicate sufficiently with families. However, remote learning can pose challenges for some households. As this
makes clear, remote learning can have a negative effect for some students. As an example, it can be difficult for a student with autism to pay attention or listen to school instruction in the home environment. Additionally, two parents stated that lack of socialization and adjusting to the new coronavirus normal have been challenging. A student with a disability has been unable to work on transition to work goals specified on his IEP because of business closures resulting from coronavirus restrictions. According to this
article from Disability Scoop about IEP meetings during coronavirus,
it is necessary for an IEP team to consider each student’s current goals, performance and needs. How to achieve IEP goals, where services should take place and what the services are also need to be considered. The article specifies the need to consider how school closures affected the student and what modifications need to be made to an IEP as a result of coronavirus. I will now discuss how students can remain involved in their IEP meetings.
During the coronavirus period, instruction may be provided virtually. It is important for students with disabilities to be involved in their own IEP. This article from the National Association of Special Education Teachers about
explains the IEP process. There are resources online to help students lead their IEPs. Example:
“How to Help Students Lead Their IEP Meetings” (PDF).
Students who take responsibility for their own education can become more knowledgeable about their disability, relevant accommodations and legal rights. In order to manage their own IEP meetings effectively, the article cites necessity of self-advocacy and self-determination training. The benefits of student-led IEP meetings include increased self-confidence and an ability to advocate for oneself. Additionally, the research document states that students who led their own IEP meetings served as mentors to fellow students. Tips for beginning the self-management process are also provided, including beginning with students who are natural leaders and striving for success with a few students in a pilot program. A crucial piece of an IEP for high school students is transition. As this Delaware State News article
“Transition to Life Fair aims to prepare students beyond school”
states, it is important for students to be adequately prepared for life beyond high school graduation. I encourage readers interested in learning more about student-led IEP meetings to acquire knowledge. Two resources which can assist Delawareans with disabilities are the
Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Division for the Visually Impaired.
I will end this article with two IEP stories. My supervisor who has dyslexia, Moni, recently told me about her own IEP experience and allowed me to share here. At first, other people managed her IEP meetings. After a few years, Moni began leading her IEP meetings. That included working collaboratively with others to set IEP goals. The result was that her spelling skills had improved by the following year and she gained experience advocating for herself. I had a different experience. As I recall, at my IEP meetings all goals were determined by the adults present. Those goals were focused primarily on what they wanted me to do. I graduated high school over a decade before the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was passed in 2014. I do not recall my IEP meetings placing much focus on transition. Since I was not directly involved in managing my own IEP meetings, as an adult I had to learn how to ask for help and rely on myself to get things done. The ideal IEP meeting focuses on the individual, with the individual taking the lead.
Question for readers: Do you recommend students with disabilities advocate for themselves? If so, how? I will return next week with another article.