Audio Script for “A Student’s Guide to the IEP”

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Student Guide Audiotape 1 (Tape1)
September 1995

Below, you’ll find the script of the audio program that accompanies NICHCY’s publication A Student’s Guide to the IEP. The audio program is designed especially for students with disabilities who are becoming involved in the IEP process. The program features the experiences, suggestions, and observations of students with disabilities who have written their own IEPs and, in many cases, lead the IEP meeting, as well as the observations of administrators, teachers, and parents who have worked with these students.

While listening to the audio program is not necessary to students becoming a part of their IEP team, it’s a fun program, both informational and motivational. The audio program is available online in MP3 format, for your convenience. Simply download it and you can play it on a computer, an MP3 player, or other mobile device. We’ve listed this, and the other components to the Student Guide set, below:

Student’s Guide to the IEP package (St1) includes these parts:

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Script of the Audio Program for Students

– When I started working on my IEP, at first I thought it was really stupid. And then after Ilearned more about it, I said, hey, I can do this.

– I’ve led my own IEP once. It sounded pretty cool, so I just wanted to try.

– My ED resource person didn’t think I could do it by myself. And when she saw me doing it, she couldn’t believe it.

– I think as a parent, especially when your child has problems, you want to jump right in and solve all their problems and do everything for them. But that doesn’t help them, because you’re not going to be there forever in their life. So I have to control myself and step back.

– What you want to do. All your life, what you want to do…

– The IEP is about you, and it is you, and it involves you, and everything that has to do with the IEP is around you.

Narrator:
Hello. My name is Matt Edwards. I’m 17 and I have a learning disability. The voices you’ve just heard are Cara and Sarah, Sarah’s mom, Jean, and Alex. Like me, Cara, Sarah, Jean, and Alex are all teenagers who have planned, written, and in some cases led their own IEP meeting. But first, I think I should tell you a little about the term I.E.P. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program.

Marcy McGahee-Kovac:
An IEP describes your educational plan. In the IEP, it also describes what your present level of educational functioning is, it talks about what goals and objectives you and your teachers have decided to work on for the next 12 months, and it also talks about your transition from high school into college or high school into a career.

Narrator Matt Edwards:
Today we’ll visit two public schools. It’s busy as usual, with books on the floor, lockers opening and closing, and kids rushing off to class. Down the hall in a large room with a long table, special education student Jean Francois is getting ready to lead his own IEP meeting. His parents and teachers look at what Jean has handed out as he begins to speak.

Jean Francois (at his IEP meeting):
I’m taking English 9, Algebra 1, Biology 1 — (sound diminishes under narrator’s voice)

Narrator Matt:
Jean’s meeting is over in about 30 minutes and he now has time to introduce himself.

Jean Francois:
My name is Jean Francois. I’m 16 years old.

Narrator Matt:
Jean is not very tall, and he’s slender with curly dark brown hair. He still remembers the day in 1990 when he almost got killed when he left his school at lunchtime.

Jean Francois:
Four years ago when I had my accident, it started like a nice day in winter, when stuff was melting for the spring. And when I was at school during that time for lunch, the teacher told us that there was a fire near our school. Me and my friend, Thomas, we went to see the fire, and we were there for I don’t know how many minutes. And while we were walking, we went in the back and went on the side where there wasn’t any fire, and we came back out to go to school and eat. And the building just exploded on us. And landed and killed my best friend.

I didn’t go back to school for that year, from the 19th of March to the next year. Before, I was able to ride my bike, which I may be able but I lose my balance. And I was able to play hockey, baseball, stuff like that, but now I’m not able to. I was able to run. I’m able to run right now, but I run on my tiptoes.

Narrator Matt:
For Jean, returning to school was really hard. He had to struggle up flights of stairs, and he had headaches and seizures. Like many of us with disabilities, he sometimes felt unwelcome.

Jean Francois:
The teacher at first didn’t want me in his class, cos he just didn’t like me. He thought that I should be in school. But I didn’t want to, I wanted to be in school. So he had to put up with me all year round.

Narrator Matt:
Things have changed for the better for Jean. But four years ago, when he first returned to school, Jean wasn’t even at his first IEP meeting where his teachers and parents planned what he would take in class.

Jean Francois:
In my first IEP, I didn’t go, because I was not invited. So I thought it was better that I was going to lead it.

Narrator Matt:
Now Jean has learned to describe what his disabilities are, and he knows what medicines he takes.

Jean Francois:
My disabilities are learning disability, physical disability, and traumatic brain injury. I take Dilantin for seizures. I still take my medication for asthma. Sometimes my medication make me be drowsy and feel very sick, and I need to go home or rest a little.

Narrator Matt:
When he writes his own IEP, Jean includes this information. He asks his teachers to understand when he can’t stay in school all day. He’s found that talking about his disabilities and being up front about what his needs are have improved the way he and his teachers get along.

Jean Francois:
It made the teachers understand more about my sickness, and that I still need to take medication and the rest. They let me go to the clinic whenever I want to, and they’re watching for me all the time.

Narrator Matt:
Now we’ll meet Sarah. She goes to the same high school and Jean and I, and she also makes sure that, through her IEP, her teachers know more about her disabilities and what special accommodations she needs.

Sarah:
I had like four different things, and for each one I talked about… like, one of them was depression and the other one was mood swings, self-esteem and self-worth, the third one was self-destructive behaviors, and the fourth one was alcohol. And I told about that, and I told about the medications I’m on, and what they did to me, side effects and stuff like that. And my main accommodation was to be able to go to the bathroom when I needed to, cos one of my medications makes me go a lot. It made me closer to one of my teachers.

Narrator Matt:
This is Sarah’s mom, Carla.

Carla:
She didn’t know everything that Sarah had gone through and the medications she was on and all the problems that she had. And she said after the IEP that she really admired Sarah for coming to grips with her problems and handling it the way she did.

Sarah:
It’s hard when they don’t already know about it, but, um, it was really surprising for a lot of them. Like my counselor and my principal knew about all this stuff, but not two of my teachers who came, so they were surprised.

Carla:
And if a teacher didn’t know that she had these problems, the teacher might look at her and say, oh, she’s got an attitude, you know, I don’t like her, or her attitude. Whereas if they she has depression, if they know she suffers from an emotional disability that contributes to a learning disability, well, they’re gonna give her the space she needs and understand her for the person she is. And that’s a lot better than them not knowing.

Marcy McGahee-Kovac:
My name is Marcy McGahee and I’m a learning disabilities teacher at Hayfield High School.

Narrator Matt:
Mrs. McGahee taught Jean, Sarah, and I how to prepare our own IEPs ourselves. Each year new students come to her class who have never thought much about their IEPs. Mrs. McGahee begins working with them and teaching them about the IEP process.

Marcy McGahee-Kovac:
And many of the kids have no idea, don’t even have a clue, what an IEP is. Many of the students don’t know what their disability is.

Narrator Matt:
Mrs. McGahee has been teaching this class for five years now. Everyone in her class has learned how to take part in their own IEP meeting.

Marcy McGahee-Kovac:
I have taught over 100 students how to run their own IEPs.

Narrator Matt:
Mrs. McGahee wrote the booklet that comes with this tape. We’ll be reading the booklet at the end of the tape. The booklet tells you exactly what to do — step by step — as you work on your own IEP. Remember, getting involved is the first step. You don’t have to lead the meeting right away or at all.

Here are some tips to get started that Mrs. McGahee’s students and other teens have used. Sarah started by getting a copy of her last year’s IEP. That way she could figure out what she liked and didn’t like and what she wanted to change and put in her next IEP. Jean and Cara have other suggestions.

– I read over the first IEP before we wrote the second one.

– Well, first I had to get myself in gear for it, because I kept putting it off. And that’s one thing you really have to do. You have to set time to do it. Otherwise, you won’t get it done.

– I was nervous a little bit.

– I highlighted the important stuff about my handicapping condition and my past, stuff like that.

– I took some time after school and I put a whole bunch of my notes together, cos I went to my teachers and I asked my teachers what they thought my strengths and weaknesses were. And they were basically the same as last year, there were some new ones. And I put them together and I just wrote about what I needed to help those weaknesses. And that’s basically what my IEP is, taking my weaknesses and putting them into work to try and fix them. It’s not that hard.

– I wrote a lot. Then I took it home to read it, so I can learn it. I’ve talked about it with Ms. McGahee.

Interviewer:
Ms. McGahee is your learning disabilities teacher?

– Yes.

– And I pushed myself and pushed myself, and I wanted to do that, and I got it done.

Narrator Matt:
If you can’t remember all these tips, just look in the booklet that comes with this tape. The important thing to remember is to set goals for yourself that will help you in your school. It’s important to spell out these goals in your IEP. Then you need to follow through during the school year and try to achieve these goals.

Here are the goals Jean, my classmate who survived the accident at the fire, wrote down on his IEP form:

Jean Francois:
I decided that I need to work on writing and completing class assignments, cos I usually don’t finish them, because I’m slow and I’m so out of the class often. Last year I had seizures, I think it was 3 in 45 minutes. I’m also sick because of my condition and often I go home.

Narrator Matt:
And you don’t have to figure out your goals all by yourself. Ask your parents and teachers to help. Sarah, who overcame alcoholism and who still struggles with emotional problems and depression, had her mom help her with the goals she needed to set for herself — goals that Sarah hopes will help her eventually attend a local community college and get a degree as a substance abuse counselor.

Carla (Sarah’s mom):
Sarah has found that the best people she ran into when she was in the hospital were the people who themselves were recovering alcoholics or recovering addicts. And I think she feels that she can contribute as well because she’s been there, she’s been in the shoes of those people. And these are things, year activities, that would contribute toward that goal: Make an appointment to speak with a counselor at NOVA and observe a class. She will try not to get frustrated when students are inappropriate in class. And to continue to communicate well with teachers. That’s — she had to let other people’s behavior not get her so frustrated that — she’s emotional — that it would get in the way of her learning.

As far as independent living, to maintain a bank account. Which she did. To continue to work part-time, which she does. And she’s a real good worker. Every place she’s worked, they’ve been really pleased with her.

Narrator Matt:
The point is…the IEP is your chance to talk with your parents and teachers about what areas you think you need to work on and to hear what they think. The IEP is a plan to help you move ahead. And the IEP meeting is your chance to speak up for yourself and talk with your teachers, your parents, and others about what help you need in school.

Jean Francois:
I requested an extra set of books, one for home and one for here at school, five minutes extra time between floors. I also need to use the computer for writing, I go faster, cos I’m slow for writing with my hands. Stay after for assistance only on Thursdays, cos I go to physical therapy every other day. Extra time on tests and quizzes. I thought of some of these myself. Every teacher thought it was good. It made a big difference, because the stuff is spelled out and people understand.

Carla:
Sarah had a lot to say about what her accommodations needed to be and what she was going through. She’s on some different medications and one of the side effects of one of them is it gives her dry mouth, so the kid really needs to drink a lot. So, in turn, she also has to go to the bathroom a lot. So she needed her teachers to know that, so they wouldn’t think she just wanted to waste time from their class just to go to the bathroom. If she said she needed to go, the kid needed to go, and the teachers needed to understand that.

Narrator Matt:
All year long you’ll be working on the goals you write into your own IEP. The information in your IEP can help you in school in other ways, too. Take Cara, for example. She has a learning disability and she has permission to take all the time she needs to finish tests. I’ve done this, too. This is called a reasonable accommodation. But one day Cara’s math teacher announced to the class that she was about to collect all the test papers…including Cara’s.

Cara:
When I was taking a test in geometry, the teacher came to the front of the room, and I was about halfway through my test, and said you have 10 minutes left. After 10 minutes, I’m taking the test, no matter what, if you’re done or not, it’s over, I’m taking the tests away. So then, I sort of thought about it, and I said, hey, it’s in my IEP, I don’t have to have a timed test. I can finish the test however long it takes me to finish it. So I went to the teacher and I said, excuse me, in my IEP it states that I don’t have to have a timed test, you can’t time me on this test, you can’t take it away, I can work as long as I need on it.

And she looked at me and said, your IEP? I said, yeah, in my IEP it says that. And she said, oh, okay. And 5 minutes later, she stood up and she got in front of the classroom, and she said, if you have to use math lab, you’re welcome to, I won’t take your test away. Just give it back and I’ll put it in math lab for you. And she was very pleased that I went to her and I told her that I, that I needed time on my test, rather than just turning it in halfway done. So…that helped my grade, too.

Narrator Matt:
It might seem hard at first, but, like us, you can plan much of your own IEP yourself. Then maybe, like me, you can lead your own IEP meeting.

So far on this tape we have heard from three teens who have some of the same challenges you may have. Our fourth student on this tape has also been part of his own IEP meeting. For him, it might seem harder, but as he has spoken up about his needs and what he wants to do, his teachers have responded with support and respect.

Alex:
My name Alex Ripley.

Narrator Matt:
Meet Alex. He’s 19. He has mental retardation and speech, eye, and walking problems.

Special Education Director of Alex’s School District:
I want to frame this meeting by, we’ve had a couple of discussions the last couple of weeks about Alex and what you might do for next year. So the purpose today is to plan your program for 94-95. Now, in that regard, we have to make some decisions. One, are you going to be at George Mason next year? All right? Two…

Narrator Matt:
In the last year Alex has learned to read 200 words. He’s learned to do data entry on the computer. He’s also working with a job coach who will help him eventually find a job and special housing so he can live on his own. Like all the students on this tape, Alex is pleased with the way his meeting went. He can describe his disabilities to others with ease.

Alex:
I no see no good. I no talk no good sometime, too. Sometime I little talk fast, sometime I talk slow. I no walk no good sometime.

Interviewer:
What do you think you want to do, Alex?

Alex:
Maybe work you would like to do. I feel better in that meeting because someone talks for me. Talk, because that gives me more ideas, I don’t know what to do.

Interviewer:
Did you prepare for this meeting?

Alex:
Yes.

Interviewer:
And how do you feel about this meeting? Do you feel good about what happened?

Alex:
Yes. Yes, I felt good about what happened.

Interviewer:
How long have you been in the IEP meetings yourself?

Alex:
Several times. It gives you more ideas of what you want to do, all your life, you want to do.

Narrator Matt:
I’m glad I did my own IEP and I think you will be, too. Now it’s time to get started. But first, here’s a few final thoughts from the teens on this tape.

– I was in the 9th grade when I did my IEP for the first time, and I started learning about my disability. Everything became so much easier.

– My parents came, my teachers, my counselors, and I even invited my boyfriend.

– I think I have better communication with my teachers since I did my IEP. And it went really fine.

– I needed to let others know what my disability is, so they can help me. It’s something you have to be there for, you have to know about, because it’s you, and it’s not anybody else. You should start to take charge of yourself.

Narrator Matt:
If you would like to hear the booklet that came with this tape read aloud, keep listening because immediately after these credits, we’ll read the booklet from cover to cover. [Credits omitted here; please see credits below.] Thanks for listening, good luck, and you can do it!!

[The text of the student booklet is then read on this audiotape.]

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