Once again this year members of A2Z participated as instructors in the Student Rights Initiative (SRI) at the 19th Annual COPAA Conference in Dallas, Texas. The students that participated in SRI learned about their rights under the law, how to participate and advocate for their needs at an IEP and how to lead a student-directed IEP meeting.
Students heard from attorneys that have disabilities themselves and learned how they navigated the world of education as students and how their disabilities shaped their career choices.
Students also heard from Selene Almazan, COPAA’s Legal Director, regarding important key court cases that led to the IDEA and how these cases shaped the rights available to them today.
Some of the students also had the opportunity to attend the COPAA breakout session “Maximizing the Youth Voice” with presenters Shiloh Carter and Olivia Hudson from Disability Rights Texas with fellow conference attendees and participated in a lively discussion about having students attend and advocate on their own behalf at IEP meetings.
The students also discussed how a younger student might participate in their own IEP meeting. The group determined that a younger student could introduce themselves to the IEP team so that all members were familiar with the student. Another strategy discussed was the possibility of creating a prepared statement to read to the team about the student’s own strengths and where he or she thought she might need more help or support.
At the end of the last day the students all worked together to create a sample presentation that they could use to help them create a presentation for their own IEP meeting once they returned home. SRI students also shared that they wanted to go home and share with their friends how they could advocate on their own behalf.
The SRI program was started to give students the tools they need to be self advocates early on in their educational career thereby establishing a groundwork for them to advocate on their own behalf at other stages of life, including at institutions of higher education and in the work place. This year students again left the program ready to go home and get more involved in their own educational planning.