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Originally published in See/Hear Newsletter, Winter 2008
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Courtney Stevens, High School Student with Visual Impairments, Houston, TX

Key words: Family wisdom, blind, self-determination, student led IEP meetings

Abstract: A young lady who is a sophomore in High School shares her experiences in learning to lead her own IEP meeting, and gives other students with visual impairments suggestions on how to be successful with their own.

Leading your own ARDs is not something that will just happen over night for most people. It takes time. You really need to go to your own ARDs and sit in and watch how they work before you can really get an idea on how to lead them.

Leading the ARD is tricky; you never know how the teachers, parents, or really how anyone else will respond to the student taking charge. Sometimes it can be okay with no problems and no one will be upset or feel threatened. I myself have never been in a kind of situation where anyone feels this way. I am a normally very shy person. So for me leading my own ARDs, at first, didnt seem like something I could do.

I started attending my own ARDs young, when I was in 4th grade. At my very first ARD I didnt talk much, just agreed when it was right to do so. As I got older I saw the flaws in this, and had to step up. Once I started in middle school my mother was no longer able to attend my ARDs. The school saw this as an opening and would try to place me into classes that I would not want to be in. So I stepped up and started to fight back against things that didnt seem right for me because honestly in most cases I think the student knows what is best for their own needs. My VI teacher, Ms. Elizabeth Eagan, had a better idea of how to help me along this path than I did. Now I am about to enter my second year of high school and I can lead my ARD from beginning to finish.

When a student decides or shows that they want to start trying to lead their own ARD meetings, I think that some parents and/or teachers see it as the students dont really know whats best for them. Some parents may not want to let go of that control for whatever reasons they may have. Teachers may not see things on the same level as the student and not understand why they are asking for whatever it is they are asking.

Students, here is my advice to you. One, make goals before going into your ARD and have good reasons to back them up. I can not explain to you how important this is! Two, if you want something changed or modified let teachers and/or parents know, because if you keep it to yourself it will never change on its own. Third, if you ask for something to be changed and someone kind of just looks over it without paying attention to what you said bring it up again and explain why you want this and why you think it will help you. If you are still looked over do not be afraid to fight for what you want if you really think it will help you. Just ask the other ARD members why they are looking over what you said or why they do not want to listen to what you suggested. Try to convince them this is a good thing, and if they do not see it your way, talk to othersyour parents, your VI teacher, other teachers, whomever you think could help.

Now parents, if you see that your child is starting to show that they can or would want to lead their own ARDs, do not discourage them! Support them. Help them in any way you can, and if you need help, try talking to you childs VI teacher. They are the VI teacher for a reason. Also if you see that your childs VI teacher is not letting them lead their own ARDs, talk to them about why they are doing that. The same also goes for teachers. If you see your student trying to lead the ARD, do not put them down, but instead try to help them! Students more than likely need all the help they can get in something like an ARD, because they wont really know what is going on or how to say what they want. All I can really say is: students, open up, do not be shysay whats on your mind. Teachers and parents listen to them and help them. If they told you something they want to be done, dont say it for them. Let them bring it up and help them to say it to everyone.