Self-Advocacy and IEPs
It is generally understood that a collaborative approach to planning benefits both the process and the outcome; this also applies to the IEP planning process. The IEP Resource Guide provides direction that when developing the IEP, consultation needs to occur with parents, previous teachers and other professionals, and the student, where possible:
“Principals are legally required to ensure that all students who are 16 years of age or older are consulted in the development of the IEP. However, any student for whom an IEP is being developed should be consulted to the degree possible.”
- The Individual Education Plan (IEP), A Resource Guide
Including students in the IEP process ensures that the IEP is student centred and the process promotes both student engagement and student ownership.
Students with LDs can be involved with the IEP process in the following ways:
- Students can share their strengths and needs – as a key component to self-advocacy, students need to know their learning profile
- Students can identify important learning goals
- Students can identify accommodations they need to access the curriculum and demonstrate their learning
Explicit Instruction for IEP Conferences
Explicit instruction involves using highly structured and sequenced steps to teach a specific skill. Research had shown that the use of explicit instruction to prepare students for an IEP meeting resulted in a significant difference in the number of goals identified by the students. There were also significant differences in the number of verbal contributions during the conference that were related to describing learning strengths and weaknesses. The researchers concluded, therefore, that this type of strategy instruction is beneficial to adolescents with LDs and can increase their participation and self-advocacy during an IEP meeting.
In order to prepare students for their involvement in the IEP process, researchers identified the following program. The skills in this program had two separate components: SHARE and IPLAN.
The SHARE technique steps were:
S - Sit up straight
H - Have a pleasant tone of voice
A - Activate
R - Relax
E - Engage in eye communication
Once these skills had been learned, instruction in the IPLAN steps began:
I - Inventory strengths, needs, goals, and choices
P - Provide your inventory
L - Listen and respond
A - Ask questions
N - Name your goals
Explicit instruction can be divided into three sequential steps: modeling, guided or directed practice, and independent practice. In order to be most effective, it is important that student be able to see examples of the SHARE and IPLAN skills modelled by their teachers and that students are given opportunities to practice with a teacher or their peers before their IEP meetings. Ellis et al. recommend the following procedures to instruct self-advocacy skills for IEP meetings:
- Orientation stage – An overview of the strategy is provided.
- Describe stage – Discuss the IEP process and available services and accommodations, describe the major behaviours associated with the strategy, and provide a rationale for each step.
- Model and Prepare stage – Participants complete the (learning strengths, weaknesses, and preferences; interests), the next steps in the strategy are modeled, and good and poor examples of the behavior are discussed.
- Verbal Rehearsal stage – Participants memorize and elaborate on their understanding of the steps in the strategy and the behaviours.
- Strategy Practice and Feedback stage – Participants are given a brief overview of the IEP conference and participate in a simulated conference, feedback is provided.
- Generalization stage – Just before the IEP meeting, there is a discussion of how these steps could be used in other situations, steps in the strategy are reviewed, and answers to questions that would be asked in the IEP are practiced.
 Ontario Ministry of Education, 2004
 Ellis et al., 1991