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What IDEA Says

Operating on the premise that the student with a disability—who is the focus of all this discussion and planning— may have something vital to contribute to planning his or her educational program and future, IDEA clearly provides for the child’s inclusion in, and participation on, the IEP Team whenever appropriate.

Specifically, IDEA:

  • provides that the public agency must include the child with a disability at the IEP meeting “whenever appropriate, and
  • requires that the child be invited to attend the meeting “if the purpose of the meeting will be the consideration of the postsecondary goals for the child and the transition services needed to assist the child in reaching those goals” [§300.320(b)].

As you can see, if transition goals and services are going to be discussed, the student with a disability must be invited to attend the meeting.

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Who decides if the student attends the meeting?

Other than the requirement that the child must be invited to attend the IEP meeting if transition planning is going to be considered at the meeting—who decides when and how a child may participate in an IEP meeting? This issue was addressed in the Analysis of Comments and Changes in the preamble to the final Part B regulations. The Department of Education explained:

Until the child reaches the age of majority under State law, unless the rights of the parent to act for the child are extinguished or otherwise limited, only the parent has the authority to make educational decisions for the child under Part B of the Act, including whether the child should attend an IEP meeting. (71 Fed. Reg. at 46671)

In reality, parents and children often make this decision together. It’s not uncommon for parents and even teachers to encourage children to take part in developing their own IEPs. Some children in elementary school come to the meeting just to learn a little about the process or to share information about themselves.

As children get older, it may be a good idea to encourage them to take a more active role. This allows them to have a strong voice in their own education and can teach them a great deal about self-advocacy and self-determination. Older children may even lead the IEP meeting, and specific materials exist to help them get ready for such a role.

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Resources for involving students in IEP meetings

To learn more about how to involve children with disabilities in their own IEP meetings and find materials that will help you do so, there are several pages on this website you may wish to visit, as follows:

Transition Suite, a series of 9 separate resource pages, beginning at

Students Get Involved!

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Would you like to read about another member of the IEP team?

If so, use the links below.

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