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Specially Designed Education Services | Empowering Collaboration in Special Education with Master IEP Coach® 🌟

Empowering Collaboration in Special Education with Master IEP Coach®

Are you ready to join Specially Designed Education Services (SDES) on a journey that can truly transform the way you approach developing and leading Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and meetings in special education? Join me as we take a closer look into the world of the Master IEP Coach® and get a glimpse into the remarkable work of Catherine Whitcher in revolutionizing the way parents, teachers, administrators, and therapists collaborate to create impactful IEPs for students.

Unveiling the Master IEP Coach® with Catherine Whitcher 🌱

Last week on the Fast 15, I had the privilege of welcoming Catherine Whitcher. For over 20 years, Catherine has been sitting at IEP tables, helping parents, teachers, and teams create IEPs that work. Inspired by her brother with Down syndrome, she became a special education teacher with a master’s degree and five teaching certificates!

Catherine’s Journey: From Classroom to Consultant

Catherine’s journey in special education began with a personal connection—her brother, who inspired her to become a teacher. Witnessing her mother navigate the complexities of the special education system, Catherine was determined to make a difference from within the classroom. However, she soon realized that the challenges extended beyond teaching, leading her to transition into consulting and speaking, where she dedicated herself to changing the landscape of special education.

Self-Directed IEPs: Empowering Teachers and Parents 💼

One of my absolute favorite things about special education and supporting students in developing their own self-determination is engaging into Self-Directed IEPs. In my exploration and experience, here are some very compelling reasons for considering building student voice into your own practice:  

  1. **Increased Engagement**: Research from the National Longitudinal Transition Study-2 (NLTS2) highlights that students who actively participate in their IEP meetings show significantly higher levels of engagement in their education.
  1. **Improved Self-Advocacy Skills**: A study in the Journal of Special Education reveals that students engaged in student-led IEP meetings demonstrate notable improvements in self-advocacy skills compared to their peers.
  1. **Enhanced Self-Determination**: Studies by Wehmeyer and Palmer (2003) indicate a positive correlation between student-led IEPs and enhanced self-determination among students with disabilities, crucial for their long-term success.
  1. **Higher Academic Achievement**: Research suggests that student-led IEPs positively impact academic achievement, emphasizing the importance of involving students in setting goals and monitoring progress.
  1. **Increased Post-School Success**: Studies published in Exceptional Children suggest that students engaged in student-led IEP meetings are more likely to achieve positive post-school outcomes, including employment, independent living, and further education.
  1. **Parental Satisfaction**: Surveys with parents of students involved in student-led IEP meetings consistently report high levels of satisfaction with the process, recognizing the empowerment and ownership their child gains through active participation in their education.

Bridging the Gap: Collaboration and Empowerment

The Master IEP Coach® program emphasizes a collaborative approach, empowering teachers and parents to navigate the IEP process with confidence. Through self-paced online courses and live coaching sessions, educators enhance their skills, while parents gain autonomy and support to advocate effectively for their children. Catherine’s mentorship experience fosters a sense of trust and partnership among all stakeholders, creating a supportive environment for IEP development.

Navigating Contentious IEP Meetings: A Fresh Perspective 🤝

At the heart of every successful IEP lies a collaborative partnership between educators and parents. By working together as equal partners, sharing insights, expertise, and goals, we can create truly individualized plans that reflect the unique needs, strengths, and aspirations of each student. This collaborative approach not only ensures that all voices are heard but also fosters a sense of ownership, trust, and mutual respect, ultimately leading to more meaningful and effective outcomes for students with diverse learning needs.  If you would like to learn more about one of our community partners who is a mother and champion in self-determination with her son Sam, check out their story called “Special Education Advocacy – Love for Nursing and Self-Determination.”

Shifting Perspectives: Facts Over Emotions

Navigating contentious IEP meetings can be challenging, but the Master IEP Coach® offers a fresh perspective. By prioritizing facts over emotions and facilitating constructive dialogues, Catherine guides stakeholders towards collaborative solutions. Tools like the IEP Development Assessment Wheel™ streamline the process, ensuring compliance with legal requirements while fostering a supportive atmosphere focused on student success.

Empowering Students: Her Personal Anecdote 🎓

Elevating Student Voices

One of Catherine’s most memorable experiences involves empowering a student to advocate for himself in IEP meetings. Despite verbal communication challenges, the student found his voice through drawing, leading to innovative solutions and meaningful progress. This anecdote highlights the importance of amplifying student voices and embracing diverse forms of communication in the IEP process.

Transforming Special Education Together 🚀

As we reflect on Catherine Whitcher’s journey and the impact of the Master IEP Coach®, let us embrace a new era of collaboration and empowerment in special education. By uniting parents, teachers, administrators, and therapists, we can create inclusive and supportive learning environments where every student thrives. Visit to join the movement and embark on your own transformative journey in special education.

Cheers to the Master IEP Coach®!

Barb Beck

Creative Content Director, SDES

©2024 Specially Designed Education Services

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SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create a simple and affordable solution for special educators to use during this critical time.

The Virtual Teaching Materials are a separate supplemental purchase that will greatly enhance the Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics ​or can be used on its own.

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Scheduling Tip

Find a student in your classroom who can read and understand your master schedule. Assign them a job in the morning to help set up individual student schedules. See the video of Megan setting up the schedule.
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Suzanne’s student Megan was her Teacher’s Assistant first period during her junior and senior year. One of her jobs, among other clerical tasks, was to set up individual student schedules. It saved Suzanne prep time in the morning and was a great vocational experience for Megan.

SDES has teamed up with Mundo Pato, Inc., our cloud publishing partner, to create the full Styer-Fitzgerald Program for Functional Academics in the cloud. *The Styer-Fitzgerald Program in the Cloud Start-Up Fee: a $6000 non-recurring start-up fee will be added to the first year subscription only.

Cloud Pricing

Per Month
Per Year*
Monthly subscription charge is based on a minimum of 100 students ​and increases by $125 per group of 25 additional students.