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Advocacy Rule #1: Write Things Down When They Happen!

02/06/09
by Sharon D

Preparing Documentation is Essential to Good Advocacy

Your goal at an IEP meeting is to initiate or obtain additional special education and/or related services for your child. A successful outcome at an IEP meeting depends on the documentation you make available to the team. You can’t wait until the last minute to prepare documentation. Documenting events and conversations later is never as effective or accurate as writing things down, in detail, at the time they occur. Here are some tips . . .

1. Paraprofessionals

If your child has a crisis intervention paraprofessional or a shadow, provide that person with a small three subject notebook (5×8 size is perfect). Look for a notebook that has a pocket on each subject divider – that’s even better. Have the paraprofessional document incidents that occur in the classroom, at recess, on the bus, etc., on a daily basis. These entries should include:

  • the child’s action,
  • the paraprofessional’s response, and
  • the child’s reaction to the response.

Each entry should be dated, time stamped, and signed. This log will support the need for continued service from the paraprofessional.

2. Teachers

If you plan to request a paraprofessional for the first time, you need documentation that shows your child’s need for this service.

Provide your child’s teacher with a set of anecdotal sheets. Ask her/him to keep meticulous records of everything that happens that provides support for the needed service. Each entry should be:

  • dated,
  • time stamped,
  • and signed.

Include the child’s action, the teacher’s response, and the child’s reaction to the response. If the child is taken to the principal’s office, staple a note from the principal with information about what happened to the anecdotal report. Two to three weeks worth of reports are usually sufficient to validate the child’s need for this service.

If you plan to request additional services for your child, provide your child’s teachers with a set of anecdotal sheets at the beginning of the school year. Download Anecdotal Form at http://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/anecdotal.form.doc

For example, if you will request speech therapy, ask the teachers to write notes regarding times when articulation errors affect the child’s academics (i.e., poor spelling as a result of producing sounds incorrectly, etc.). If your child has a language problem, ask the teacher to document times when these problems arise (i.e., in reading comprehension, context clues, cloze, etc.).

You can use anecdotal sheets to document a child’s needs for other related services … occupational therapy services, physical therapy services, and counseling.

3. Parents

It is your job to keep a careful record of all tests. Don’t highlight information in evaluations. Use Post-it notes to write comments or call attention to specific information on tests and other important documents. Make copies of tests and quizzes with the Post-it notes attached.

When you attend a meeting, have your documentation ready to go. Anecdotal sheets should be in a sealed envelope (sealed by the teacher before giving them to you). Ask the team to make copies for you. Your log book should be presented for the team’s review, but you should take it back at the end of the meeting. The team can make copies of any entries they want as part of your child’s record. Present your duplicate tests in a folder so they are part of the record.

If you present proper documentation that supports your request for a service, the team’s respect for you is likely to increase. They are more likely to acknowledge that your child needs the service, and conclude the meeting in your favor.

Good luck!

Note: Sharon D is an advocate from New York City.

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25 Comments on "Advocacy Rule #1: Write Things Down When They Happen!"


Joseph
12/16/2013

We need an experienced attorney to take on Beaufort county, South Carolina, school district (BCSD). This district has taken advantage of my blind son since pre-k and continues to victimize my family with zero repercussions. Any suggestions?

doreen
06/19/2012

I work in a care home & I am doing my nvq 2 the question they have asked me is what does the law say about writing things down i would be gratful if you could help me thank you

Sharon L.
06/07/2011

Kelly – If it is in the IEP no problem. If not you need to get it in there quickly because they have no legal obligation to continue it.