As a disabled high school student, I have always received accommodations. When I started my journey, I had a 504 plan, but as I matured and realized I needed more support, I decided to make the swap to an IEP at the end of freshman year.
I have always been extremely involved in the accommodations process. As such, I would always advocate and disclose my needs to the team and get frustrated when they turned to my mom for answers. I started the IEP process, I played into their arbitrary tests that often insulted my independence level, so I should be the one to have a key role in my education and accommodations. And, so that’s what I did. I was present at every meeting, and I communicated with my case manager on a daily basis to update her on my progress and express my needs.
Today, I took it a step further and LED my IEP meeting. My case manager and I spent weeks making painstaking and tedious edits TOGETHER. It was open flow communication. She told me “here are the guidelines and format we use, and here’s your last IEP” and then asked me to edit the working document with every single change I wanted to make before she made an official copy. Then, we spent all of yesterday making edits and final corrections. Today, I logged onto the call 15 minutes early, and set up a game plan. Everybody logged in and then I took the whole meeting. We discussed every aspect of my IEP, led by me, in a way that made sense to me. We set my goals for next year, decided my classes, discussed test scores and teacher input, and developed a concise but extremely inclusive plan that meets ALL of my needs in the way I need them met.
Today was groundbreaking. For me, it was an invaluable learning experience about taking charge. For my guidance counselor, teachers, IEP case manager, and vocational rehabilitation counselor, today was the first time they saw a student lead an IEP meeting.
I made history today as the first student to do so in my district. But, I will not be the last. I hope to be a role model for other students, in my district and the state as a whole, to show them that taking control of their own accommodations is possible and that their voice MATTERS in the way they receive an education.
Huge accomplishment today, and I’m glad to be leading the charge as the work continues to make education accessible for all of us.