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Student-Led Individualized Education Programs: A Gateway to Self-Determination.

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of I'm Determined youth leaders with learning disability who have enrolled in higher education within 1 year of graduating high school to better understand if and how their experience participating in the I'm Determined project led to their participation in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings.

METHOD: The intent of the narrative inquiry methodology applied to this study was to create a unified story of collective experiences that described or explained the factors leading to participation in their IEP meeting. Although each of the eight narratives is unique to the individual, common themes emerged that were reflected in the literature and consistent across the time continuum of life before and life during participation in I'm Determined .

RESULTS: One experience that was consistent was the importance of participating in and leading their IEP meeting. A narrative timeline led to our findings presented here within a continuum of experiences before and during participation in I'm Determined. We made the decision to present the findings in such a way that highlights common themes specific to IEP participation across moments in time while honoring individual narratives through supportive text from the data. This is a study of people's perceptions of their experiences best told by direct quotes from the participants. The IEP experience is just one component of the self-determination experience.

CONCLUSIONS: This study provided insight into the educational experiences of the eight I'm Determined youth leader participants and examined the importance of both their participation in I'm Determined and the development of self-determination skills deemed essential to participate and lead their IEP meeting. Their unique perspective documented in this study served to both inform and push the field forward.

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