Why Is This Cake on Fire? - Inviting Students Into the IEP Process

 
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Why Is This Cake on Fire? - Inviting Students Into the IEP Process
Curriculum Modifications and Accommodations

                                                            Why Is This
                                                           Cake on Fire?
                                                                  Inviting Students
                                                                       Into the
                                                                     IEP Process
                                                                               Jamie L. Van Dycke

                                                                                 James E. Martin

                                                                                  David L. Lovett

Ihe Blrfhday Party                         hear more and more conversations             conversation about your birthday party.
Imagine being a small child and hearing    about your birthday party and so you         But since you have never been invited
your parents talk about your birthday      know it is coming soon. And again your       to your parties, you know that your
party. You hear the excitement in their    birthday comes and goes, but no one          presence there is not important. You
voices as they talk and plan, starting     ever invites you to your party. It must      believe that birthday parties are not
with a theme for the party, deciding       not be important for me to be there, you     important at all, so you do not pay any
whom they will invite, and then figuring   think.                                       attention to the birthday plans.
out who will do each job. As the time                                                       But this time, you receive an invita-
draws closer, you hear more and more
                                           The Follo^ng Year , . .
                                                                                        tion to your party! You are surprised,
conversations about your birthday          The following year, you once again hear      confused, and even scared. You ask
party, and so you know it is coming        your parents talk about your birthday        your parents why you received an invi-
soon. And then your birthday comes         party. You barely notice tbe excited tone    tation this year. They say.
and goes, but no one ever invites you to   in their voices as tbey decide on anoth-
your party. Maybe they just forgot to      er new theme, make the invitation list,            Well, you are a teenager now,
invite me. you think.                      and divide the jobs. As the time draws          and you are old enough to help
                                           closer, you barely listen to the increased      with everything that a birthday
The Next Year . . .                        conversations about your party. Again           party involves. Each year, we start
The next year, you again hear your par-    your birthday comes and goes, but no            with a theme for your party and
ents discuss your birthday party. Once     one ever invites you. Now you think             decide the best ways to represent
again, you hear the excitement in their    that birthday parties are not important         that theme. Then we make the
voices as they talk and plan, choose a     at all.                                         invitation list and decide who will
new theme for the party, decide whom                                                       do the different jobs. Now that
they will invite, and then finally,        Several Years Later . . ,                       you are a teenager, we thought
appoint someone to be in charge of each    Several years later, when you become a          that you would like to become
job. Again, as time draws closer, you      teenager, you barely catch a snippet of a       involved!

42 • COUNCIL FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN
Why Is This Cake on Fire? - Inviting Students Into the IEP Process
But you respond by saying,               some students may be ashamed for any-         Huber Marshall, & Sale, 2004; Storms,
                                            one to know that they have an IEP.            O'Leary, & Williams, 2000; Test et a l ,
       Why would I want to become
                                            When students reach middle school or          2004). The 2004 IDEA amendments
   involved now? If these birthday
                                            high school and finally receive their first   continue to emphasize the importance
   parties were supposed to be my
                                            invitation to attend an IEP meetitig, they    of transition planning and require that
   birthday parties, why wasn't /
                                            may not be interested at all—and they         the IEP team develop measurable post-
   invited all along? Why didn't I                                                        secondary goals in the IEP on the basis
                                            make statemetits similar to those in the
   have a chance to select themes                                                         of the student's assessed needs,
                                            birthday party example: "Now I am so
   that interest me? Why didn't I get                                                     strengths, preferences, and interests
                                            old that I do not ktiow how to help with
   to help decide whom to invite?                                                         (Council for Exceptional Children,
                                            any of it; you have beeti doing it for me
   And why didn't I get to help                                                           2004). The implication is that educators
                                            for all these years. Just keep on doing it
   choose who would do the differ-                                                        need to invite students not only to be a
                                            without me."
   ent jobs?                                                                              part of the IEP meeting but also to be a
   "We thought that you were not old        Questions Wfo Should Ask                      part of the IEP process, so tbat they can
                                            As educators, parents, and service            learn about and communicate their
enough to help."
                                            providers, we should be asking the fol-       needs, preferences, and interests.
   "Now I am so old that I do not know
                                                                                          Students should be involved with the
how to help with any of it; you have        lowing questions:
                                                                                          IEP planning process and should
been doing it for me for all these years.
                                            •    Do we encourage students to become
Just keep on doing it without me."
                                                 involved in their IEP meetings?          •   Have an informative role in develop-
Now . . .                                   •    Does this involvement begin at an            ing and writing their educational
                                                 early age?                                   performance description (the Present
Imagine this scenario again, only this
                                                                                              Levels of Educational Performance,
time, insert individualized education       •    Do we encourage students to become           or PLEP).
program (IEP) meetings in place of               involved in designing the "themes"
birthday parties.                                                                         • Aid in developing measurable post-
                                                 of their IEPs?
                                                                                            secondary goals in their IEPs.
The IEP Meeting                             •    Do we allow students to help decide
                                                                                          •   Help identify the accommodations,
                                                 whom to invite to their lEP meet-
Students with disabilities hear their                                                         modifications, and supports that
                                                 ings?
teachers and parents talk about their                                                         they need.
IEP meetings, they hear about goals,        •    Do we give students opportunities to
                                                                                          •   Be responsible in the achievement of
and they hear about what they are                be responsible for the goals in their
                                                                                              coordinated transition activities,
doing wrong and the problems that they           IEPs?
                                                                                              postschool linkages, and post-
are having. They hear about plans and       •    Do students know that the IEP meet-          secondary goals (Mason, Field, &
services and who will work on each job.          ings are for them and that the ititent       Sawilowsky, 2004; Mason, McGahee-
They hear about who will attend the IEP          of the IEP process is to design a            Kovac, Johnson, & Stillermati, 2002).
meetitig. But students rarely receive            plan—a blueprint—that will help
invitations to attend when they first            them be successful in school and in      Ara We Inviring Students to
begin to hear about these meetings. At           hfe?                                     Speak or Just to Attend?
first, students may believe that someone                                                  Expecting students to exercise active
just forgot to invite them. In the years                                                  roles in the IEP process means doing
that follow, when they still do not                                                       much more than just invititig them to
receive invitations, students may think         Do students know that the                 attend the meetings. We must encour-
that attending their own IEP meetings is         intent of the IEP process                age tbem to participate actively in the
not important since no one shares any                                                     IEP conversations. In Year 1 of a 3-year
information about the meeting. They                is to design a pian—«                  research study cotiducted by Martin, et
may decide that an IEP meeting is an             hiueprint^hat wiii heip                  al. (2006), researchers observed 109
opportunity for adults to talk negatively                                                 middle and high school IEP meetings to
about all the problems tbat students are            them he successfui in                 determine who talked in typical teacher-
having iti school and divide up the nec-              schooi and in iife?                 directed IEP meetings. In those meet-
essary jobs.                                                                              ings, students only talked during 3% of
                                                                                          the IEP meeting time. Special educators
The First Invitation                                                                      spoke 51 % of the time, family members
By the time tbat students become            Behaviors We Shouid Expect                    spoke 15% of the time, general educa-
teenagers, they may have decided that       The 1997 Amendments to the Indi-              tors and administrators each spoke 9%,
IEP meetings are not important at all       viduals with Disabilities Education Act       support personnel spoke 6%, and mul-
since no one has invited them or includ-    [IDEA) recognized students as impor-          tiple conversations occurred during 5%
ed them in the planning phase. In fact.     tant members of the IEP team (Martin,         of the meeting time. Finally, during 2%

                                                                            TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN • JAN/FEB 2006 • 43
Why Is This Cake on Fire? - Inviting Students Into the IEP Process
Figure 1 . Pvrcantag* of Intervals That IEP Team Members Talked                               Figure 2. Tbe SeH-Dlrected
  During Observed IEP Meetings                                                                  IEP Leadership Steps

                                Student   No Conversations
                                               2%
                                                                                                  1. Introduce self
                Multiple Conv
                     5%                                                                           2. Introduce IEP team
                                                                                                     members
                                                                                                  3. State purpose of meeting
                                                                                                  4. Review past goals and
                                                                                                     progress
                                                                                                  5. Ask for feedback
                                                                                                  6. Ask questions if did not
                                                                     Z'fk SPED Teachers             understand
                                                                              51%
                                                                                                 7. Deal with differences in
                                                                                                    opinion
                                                                                                 8. State needed support
                                                                                                 9. Express interests
                                                                                                10. Express skills and limits
                                                                                                11. Express options and goals
                      Family
                                                                                                12. Close meeting by thanking
                       15%                                                                          everyone

of the time at these ohserved IEP meet-         of the meeting, asking for feedback, or       become involved, student participation
ings, no conversation occurred at all, as       closing the meeting by thanking every-        aiso increased to 12% of the meeting
Figure 1 indicates. The student contri-         one. Students introduced themselves or        time—a much more encouraging
bution category therefore exceeded              other IEP team members, reviewed past         amount than the student contribution of
only the category in which no one was           goals and progress, asked questions           3% that occurred in the Year 1 teacher-
talking.                                        when they did not understand, dealt           directed meetings (see box, "What Does
                                                with differences in opinion, or stated        Research Reveal About Student Involve-
                                                needed support at 6% or less of the           ment in the IEP Process?").
                                                meetings.
  We must encourage them                                                                      Steps for Educators
                                                    In Year 2 of the study [Martin, et ai.,
  to participate actively in                    in press), participating teachers ran-        Educators should incorporate student
                                                domly selected students for IEP instruc-      self-directed IEP instruction into the stu-
    the lEP conversations.                      tion groups. That year, the researchers       dent's curriculum according to the
                                                ohserved 130 IEP meetings: In 65 of           needs of the student and the structure
                                                those meetings, the students had              of the school day. Teachers in the
                                                received IEP leadership instruction; and      Martin et al. tin press) study taught the
How Do W» Bring                                 in the other 65 meetings, the students        12 self-directed IEP lessons in a variety
Into the IEP Conversations?                     had not. In the meetings observed after       of ways. Teaching each lesson took
Shident IEP Leadership Steps                    students had received IEP leadership          approximately 45 minutes. Students
Martin et al. (2006) used the 12 IEP            instruction, the students' contribution       received instruction over a 6-day period
leadership steps (Martin, Huber Mar-            increased across all 12 lEP leadership        (two lessons per day), an 11-day period
shall, Maxson, & Jerman, 1997) shown            steps, with the largest increases occur-      (one or two lessons per day), or in 1 day
in Figure 2 to observe how students             ring for introducing self and team mem-       at a student leadership retreat. Teachers
became involved in their lEPs. During           bers, stating the purpose of the meeting,     infused the self-directed IEP instruction
the 109 teacher-directed IEP meetings,          reviewing past goals and progress, and        into before-school or after-school stu-
students expressed interests in 49.4% of        expressing options and goals. Table 1         dent meetings, resource or study peri-
the meetings, expressed options and             shows the 12 IEP leadership steps that        ods, and into the English, social studies,
goals in 27.1% of the meetings, and             students exhibited in Years 1 and 2 of        or social skills curriculum [see box,
expressed skills and limits in 20% of           the Martin et al. (in pressj study. In the    "What Do Educators Say After They
the meetings. The researchers never             Year 2 IEP meetings that occurred after       Teach Students to Self-Direct Their
observed students stating the purpose           educators had taught students how to          IEPs?").

44 • COUNCIL FOR EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN
Why Is This Cake on Fire? - Inviting Students Into the IEP Process
Tnblft 1. Sfvdent IEP Leadership Step* Exhibited In Sfudy Years 1 and 2

                                                  % of Students                 % of Students                   % of Students
                                               Who Exhibited Steps           Who Exhibited Steps            Who Exhibited Steps
                                              in Year 1 With No IEP         in Year 2 With No IEP            in Year 2 With IEP
  IEP Leadership Steps                        Leadership Instruction        Leadership Instruction         Leadership Instruction

  Introduce self                                          0                                 0                         70
  Introduce IEP team members                              0                                 0                         77
  State purpose of meeting                                0                                 0                         70
  Review past goals and progress                          0                                 1                         53
  Ask for feedback                                        0                                 0                         22
  Ask questions if did not understand                     0                             18                            35
  Deal with differences in opinion                        0                             15                            17
  State needed support                                    0                                 8                         25
  Express interests                                     49                              62                            n
  Express skills and limits                             20                                  9                         43
  Express options and goals                             27                              24                            53
  Close meeting by thanking everyone                      0                                 0                         14

Steps for Parent5                            in the child's life, such as learning early,       child's strengths, preferences, gifts, and
                                             along with the child, about his or her             needs (Bateman, Bright, & Boldin,
Parents can take several steps to help
                                             disability; learning how to talk comfort-          2003). Additionally, parents need to fre-
their child become more than just an         ably about challenges in terms that the            quently remind their child of the impor-
attendee at the IEP meeting. The parent      child can easily understand; and learn-            tance of his or her strengths and gifts
needs to take many of these steps early      ing, along with the child, about the               and how they contribute to the family,
                                                                                                the classroom, and the IEP process.
                                                                                                Beginning with Ihe first IEP meeting,
                                                                                                parents should expect their child to
 What Does Research Reveal About Student Involvement                                            become an IEP team member, and they
 in the IEP Process?                                                                            should talk to the child ahout his or her
 During the past 10 years, self-determination has become such a central topic in                role in the IEP meeting (see box, "How
 special education literature that "promoting self-determination (SD) or teaching               Do Parents Respond to Student
 students to take control of their life, is becoming a hallmark of providing full and           Involvement in IEP Meetings?"). Finally,
 complete special education services" [Karvonen, Test, Wood, Browder, &                         parents need to frequently review
 Algozzine, 2004, p. 23). Research indicates that this hallmark is rarely achieved.             progress toward IEP goals with their
 Agran, Snow, and Swaner (1999) found that although 75% of middle and high                      child (Bateman et al., 2003; Schoellar &
 school teachers rated SD skills as a high priority, 55% failed to include goals                Emanuel, 2003).
 related to SD skills in any of their students' IEPs. Wehmeyer, Agran, and Hughes
 (2000) found that only 22% of secondary teachers reported writing SD goals for
 all their students. Mason, et al. [2002) found that students and teachers highly
 value student involvement in the IEP planning process, but that study identified                To many students, the IEP
 several logistical challenges that educators must resolve before they can imple-                process and meeting may
 ment SD practices: "Chief among these is finding the time necessary for adequate
 student preparation. With the trend away from pull-out resource rooms toward                        appear os alien and
 inclusion in the general classrooms, teachers are finding it difficult to schedule
                                                                                                   avrkward as an annual
 time to prepare students for IEP meetings" (p. 188). The question quickly
 becomes, "If teachers cannot find time to prepare students to self-direct their                birthday party that they do
 IEPs, how are they going to prepare students to self-direct their lives?"
                                                                                                  not help plan or attend.

                                                                              TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN • J A N / F E B 2006     • 45
Why Is This Cake on Fire? - Inviting Students Into the IEP Process
Do Educators Say Aftar They Teach Students                                        How Do Parents Respond to
  to Self-Direct Their IEPs?                                                               Student Involvement in IEP
                                                                                           Meetings?
  Teachers involved in the Martin et al. [in press) study made the following
                                                                                           A speech-language pathologist who
  comments after teaching the self-directed IEP to their students:
                                                                                           attended a student-directed IEP
  • A teacher who had taught the self-directed IEP lessons said—
                                                                                           meeting made the following com-
     The students have taken much more interest in this than I thought they                ment:
     would. I think I just figured that since I knew all about IEPs and have
     talked about having to do IEP meetings so much, that my students would                    / was watching his mom's
    just somehow figure out what they were. I didn't think about actually                      eyes as he was doing his
    teaching them about IEPs. Why would I have thought ihat they would                         part of the IEP in there, and
    leam this on their own?                                                                    I saw a tear It's good to see
  • A teacher who had taught the first three lessons of the self-directed IEP                  students have a more active
                                                                                               role, instead of being so pas-
    said—
                                                                                               sive. It took him a little
     The students are embarrassed and giggly in class about the role-playing.                  longer to do his part,
     But it's a great way to teach them about social skills, like how to introduce             because of his speech delay,
     someone by looking at them, and holding your head up, and making eye                      but I don't think anyone
     contact. They don't know it yet, but we're going to be role-playing the                   minded that. ! was proud of
     entire IEP in the counselor's office when we get further along with the les-              him today.
     sons. 1 want them to practice in the environment where they're actually
     going to be doing this.                                                                  Martin, Huber, Marshall, et al.
                                                                                           [2004) examined tbe perceptions of
  • A teacher who had conducted several student-directed IEP meetings said—
                                                                                           IEP meeting participants when stu-
     This is a great way for students to leam to advocate for themselves, espe-
                                                                                           dents attended meetings. The
     cially for the ones who have parents that can't or don't know how to advo-
                                                                                           results of this study indicated tbat
     cate for them.
                                                                                           student presence at IEP meetings
  • A teacher who had taught students to self-direct their IEP meetings said—              adds value and validation to invit-
     / agreed to take part in this study last year, but I wasn't sure at all about         ing students into the IEP process.
     teaching my students about their !EPs. This year I'm totally into it. My stu-         Specifically, the researchers found
     dents need to leam these skills. ! see now that the IEP is a workable way             that when students attended meet-
     to teach them about advocacy—and they understand more why they are                    ings, "Parents understood the rea-
     in special education.
                                                                                           son for the meeting better, felt more
                                                                                           comfortable saying what they
                                                                                           thought, understood more of what
                                                                                           was said, and knew better wbat to
A DKforent Wkiy                               to learn crucial self-advocacy and other
                                                                                           do next" [Martin, Huber, Marshall,
To many students, the IEP process and         self-determination skills during the tran-
                                                                                           etah, pp. 291, 293).
meeting may appear as alien and awk-          sition process [Martin et al., 2006).
                                              Active student involvement at the IEP            Grigal, Neubert, Moon, and
ward as an annual birthday party that
                                              meeting is central to this process           Graham [2003) surveyed parents,
they do not help plan and do not attend.
                                              [Martin, Greene, & Borland, 2004). It is     general educators, and special edu-
The IEP process does not have to be that
                                              now up to professionals and parents to       cators about their views on self-
way. IDEA 2004 has continued to
                                              invite students into the IEP planning        determination and found that par-
emphasize secondary transition plan-
                                                                                           ents strongly supported IEP meet-
ning that focuses on students' needs,         process and to support tbem while they
                                                                                           ing participation and self-determi-
preferences, and interests. The implica-                                                   nation instruction. However, Grigal
tion is twofold:                                                                           and colleagues noted tbat IEP meet-
• Students need to be involved in the                                                      ing participation may have different
                                                 Then students can blew                    meanings to different people and
  IEP process and their IEP meetings
  as soon as transition topics surface.         out candles of success as                  that some people may equate sim-
                                                                                           ply attending tbe meeting with par-
• Students need to learn about their               they transition into                    ticipation. Other studies have con-
  IEPs and what to do at their IEP
  meetings well before they enter their           adulthood instead of                     firmed this "attendance equals par-
                                                                                           ticipation"     notion   [Field &
  secondary school years.                       wondering why a cake is                    Hoffman, 1994; Martin, Greene, &
   These implications, which are not           on fire at a party to which                 Borland, 2004).
new, have helped inspire fundamental
changes in secondary special education             no one invited them.
and created opportunities for students

46 • COUNCIL FOR EXCEPTIONAL GHILDREN
Why Is This Cake on Fire? - Inviting Students Into the IEP Process
learn how to be actively involved in                 instruction. Exceptional Children. 72, pp.       Wehmeyer, M,, Agran, M., & Hughes, G.
their IEP meetings. Then students can                187-200.                                           (2000). A national survey of teachers' pro-
blow out candles of success as they               Martin, J, E., Van Dycke, J. L., Ghristensen,         motion of seif-determination and student-
                                                     W. R., Greene, B. A., Gardner, J. E.,              directed learning. Journal of Special
transition into adulthood instead of                 Lovett. D. L. (in press). Increasing student       Education. 34{2], 58-68.
wondering why a cake is on fire at a                 participation in their transition IEP meet-
party to which no one invited them.                  ings: Establishing the self-directed IEP as      Jamie L. Van Dycke (CEC OK Federation).
                                                     an evidence-hased practice. Exceptional          Assistant Professor, Department of Curricu-
                                                     Children.                                        lum and Instruction. Northeastern State
                                                  Mason, C. Y., Field, S., & Sawilowsky, S.           University. Tahlequah, Oklahoma. James E.
                                                     (2004). Implementation of self-determina-        Martin (CEC OK Federation), Endowed Pro-
                                                     tion activities and student participation in     fessor, Zarrow Center for Learning Enrich-
                                                     IEPs. Exceptional Children, 70, 441-451.         ment: and David L. Lovett (CEC OK
                                                  Mason, G. Y., McGahee-Kovac, M., Johnson,           Federation), Associate Professor, Department
                                                     L., & Stillerman. S. (2002). Implementing        of Educational Psychology, University of
                                                     student-led IEPs: Student participation          Oklahoma. Norman.
                                                     and student and teacher reactions. Career
                                                     Development for Exceptional Individuals,
                                                                                                      Address correspondence to Jamie L. Van
                                                     25(2), 171-192.
                                                                                                      Dycke, Department of Curriculum and
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                                                                                      TEACHING EXCEPTIONAL CHILDREN • J A N / F E B 2006      • 47
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