Over the summer, I met several students that were transitioning from high school to college with disabilities. Since IEPs expire once a student graduates high school, these students needed to register for accommodations through the Disability Services office. One of the things that fascinated me is that many students did not know what services they received in school, or even why they had an IEP! This was very surprising to me, because starting in middle school, I had my accommodations memorized and could easily reference them if needed. Here are eight things students need to know about their IEP, long before they transition to college.
Why the IEP exists
You should be able to briefly explain why you have an IEP, either by briefly describing your impairment/disability or by stating the services you receive for it. For example, I have an IEP because I am visually impaired/have low vision, or I have an IEP so I can receive large print and use technology in the classroom.
Make sure you know what assistive technology you use in the classroom, whether it be types of devices, specific device names, or device settings. Even better, know all three of those things. There will come a time when you transition into a new school or college, and this information will be required. Don't expect people to immediately know everything about your technology.
Specifications for accessible documents
Be able to describe what makes a document accessible for you. Is there a specific print size you need? A special paper color or size? Do documents need to contain image descriptions when printed? Does it need to be a certain file type? Here are my high school accommodations for print materials. Learn how to create accessible documents in Microsoft Word here.
I almost always sit in the front row in my various classrooms. Because I have photosensitivity, I also request that my teachers check for flickering lights or similar issues, though this was not an official accommodation on my IEP at the time. Read more about preferential seating here, and photosensitivity in the classroom here.
I've had to fill out a large amount of forms for testing accommodations. State standardized tests, SATs, AP exams, ACTs, classroom tests- you name it, I've probably filled out a form related to it before. This is fairly easy for me, because I know exactly what accommodations I need and how to request them. Read my post on testing accommodations here.
For safety reasons, I sit out for class volleyball and similar activities. However, when it comes to playing board games or similar activities, I have a partner, usually one of my friends. I make sure that teachers know I have certain adaptations or modifications for activities so that I am able to be included.
How to self-advocate
I put this in every post I write about IEPs because it is just that important. Your case manager is not always going to be around, and school is not forever. Learning to self advocate now will help when you transition into post-secondary education, and ultimately into the workplace. Read more about self advocacy here.
Lastly, you need to know how to report violations. This information may not be readily available for you, and while legally this information must be provided, it's not always easy to find. Read more about collecting documentation here, and about state Protection and Advocacy organizations here.
I encourage all students to be informed about their educational services and be able to advocate for them when necessary. For more on receiving disability accommodations in college, read this.