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Why I Believe Autistic Kids Should Attend Their Own IEP Meetings

A couple of years ago, I was home alone and bored. I came across a purple folder labeled “IEP.” I had often heard my parents talk about IEP meetings, but I had never actually attended one. I decided to look through the folder. It couldn’t have been that bad.

Boy was I in for a not-so-pleasant surprise. The stuff written in those hellish documents was only based on the committee’s perspective of my needs and experiences, not what I knew I needed and experienced. They talked about me and wrote professional documents about me behind my back, without ever consulting with me.

Think about it this way. Suppose you have arthritis and have recently switched to a new medication. Your doctor requests a follow-up appointment to see how the medication is working for you. The doctor has your parents and a couple of other doctors attend the meeting, but not you. The committee writes out an entire report on how the medication has been affecting you without ever consulting you. You would be pretty angry if that happened, wouldn’t you? After all, only you know how your joints feel each and every day.

It’s the same way with IEPs. As a parent or teacher, you probably have a pretty good grasp on the student’s needs, but you don’t reside in the student’s brain. Only the student knows what he or she actually experiences throughout the school day.

I am aware that not all students would be able to contribute to the meeting. But if your child is communicative, whether that be through talking, sign language or a computer, I would strongly encourage you to talk about their IEP with them and invite them to attend their next IEP meeting.

Getty image by Frederic Michel.

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