Student-led Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) allow students with disabilities to take a meaningful role in the special education planning process. Students who actively participate throughout the IEP and/or transition planning process are more likely to be engaged in school and successfully achieve their goals.

System Oversight, Infrastructure and Organization: 


What is a Student-led IEP?

Student-led IEPs reflect practices that support active student participation in IEP development and processes in which students take a leadership role in making decisions about their future. Throughout the IEP process, IEP team members (including the student) assess student strengths and needs and develop goals. These plans are then implemented and regularly monitored in order to determine whether or not adjustments should be made. Other participants in the IEP meetings include parents/caregivers, special educators, general educators, support staff, administrators, and students.

Four Fundamentals

  • Approach can be utilized in K-12th grade
  • Requires investment in preparing students and parents
  • Specific roles vary and are individualized based on age, needs, and abilities
  • Occurs within the context of the overall IEP process

Stakeholder Involvement

IEP Participation Spectrum

Student participation throughout the IEP process should be individualized and based on the age, needs, and abilities of the student. IEP Teams will successfully achieve meaningful student involvement when they work individually with students to determine appropriate levels of involvement and create corresponding plans for student preparation.

IEP takes place without the student present - student present with minimal participation and/or preparation - student present with some participation (presents information, gives input into goals, answers questions) - student present and actively participates - student present and takes responsibility for one piece of the process - student present and takes responsibility for most of the process

Policies and Procedures

How Do You Implement a Student-led IEP?

Students, schools, and families who are interested in student-led IEPs can use these resources to get started. Remember – there is no single correct way to prepare for and conduct student-led IEPs. Each school, family, and student will develop different processes and practices in response to the structure of the school and the needs of the individual students. These resources are meant to encourage innovation and support schools and families as they enhance the ability of students of all ages and abilities to meaningfully participate in the IEP process.

Secondary Transition Webinar: Facilitating Student-led IEPs

Training Modules

Public Awareness & Outreach Activities: 


OSSE Self-Determination Film Series:

  • The Best Me I Can Be - Highlights the efforts of DC students, parents, and schools to increase the involvement of youth with disabilities in their Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and prepare them to take a more active role in planning for their futures. The five film modules show how involving students in the IEP process increases student engagement, empowers students to achieve their goals, and prepares youth to successfully transition to adulthood.
  • Get Started Now: Talking About Disabilities - This film shows teachers and students working together in the classroom to explore who they are as individuals in terms of their preferences, strengths, interests, and needs. When students learn self-determination skills and are encouraged to talk about their disabilities with their peers, parents, and teachers, they take important steps toward achieving their goals.

  • Let’s Talk About It: A Family Perspective - This film features conversations among DC parents who share personal experiences of talking with their children about their disabilities. The film explores the diverse approaches families take to support their students to become involved in the IEP process, set goals for the future, and develop self-advocacy skills.

Additional Information: