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Paper Trails, Letter Writing & Documentation

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When you advocate for a child, you use logs, calendars, and journals to create paper trails. You write letters to clarify events and what you were told. When you train yourself to write things down, you are taking steps to protect your child's interests.

If you have a dispute with the school, your logs and letters are independent evidence that support your memory. Documents that support your position will help you resolve disputes early.

When you write letters, think about what you want your letter to accomplish. Edit your letters so they make a good impression. When you write a letter, think about the decision-making Stranger who has the power to make things right.

Wrightslaw: From Emotion to Advocacy, 2nd Edition and Wrightslaw: No Child Left Behind include dozens of letters that you can tailor to your circumstances.

Articles

Advice About the 10-Day Notice Letter to the School. Pete Wright answers questions about what should be included in a 10-day notice letter; includes links to "Letters to the Stranger" used in his cases.

Art of Writing Letters. Learn how to use tactics and strategies when you write letters to the school. Learn about the Blame Approach and the Story-Telling Approach to letter writing; the sympathy factor; first impressions; pitfalls; and the powerful decision-making Stranger.

Advocating Through Letter Writing: Summer School Short Course. Summer School is a refresher course in effective advocacy techniques that will include a series of activities (and maybe a quiz or two) to help you prepare for the next school year. This summer, we'll learn how to advocate effectively through letter writing.

12 Rules for Writing Great Letters. If you have a problem with the school or concerns about your child's program, you must document your concerns in writing. This article includes twelve rules for writing letters, along with editing tips.

Advocating Through Letter Writing (PDF). A booklet containing information and tips for parents on advocating for your child through letter writing. 

Advocacy Rule #1: Write Things Down When They Happen. 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 for parents, teachers, and paraprofessionals. 

Using Low-Tech Tools to Create Paper Trails. Good records are important to effective advocacy. Learn how to use logs, calendars and journals to create paper trails; how to document phone calls and meetings.

The Paper Chase: Managing Your Child's Documents. If you have kids with special education needs, you can be overwhelmed by the paperwork in no time. In this article by Massachusetts attorney Bob Crabtree, you will learn what documents are important and how to organize your child's documents. Learn how to use a log and create documents to prevent problems and get better services for your child.

Preventing Burnout in People Who Help Us. Advice about how to use "thank you" letters to help people avoid burnout by advocate and educational consultant Meredith Warshaw.

Using Story-Telling in Letters to Persuade. See how a father used the story-telling approach of letter writing when he asked the school district to help his son. Do you see Joe through his father's eyes? Do you understand why the parents removed Joe from the public school program? What do you think should be done to help Joe?

Letters to the Stranger

Writing the "Letter to the Stranger." This is the "Letter to the Stranger" by Janie Bowman and Pete Wright that was originally posted on the ADD Forum. Learn how to make requests that make decision-makers want to help. Meet the pipe-smoking stranger who is looking over your shoulder when you put pen to paper.

Sample "Letters to the Stranger"

Letter to the Stranger: James Brody. This is the letter that James Brody's parents wrote to request a due process hearing. Do you see how the parents told the story of James' education? Pay attention to the use of test scores in the letter. What is your reaction to this letter? After you read the letter, read the decision in James' case.

Letter to the Stranger: Joe James. In this Letter to the Stranger, Joe's father describes Joe and Joe's problems learning to read. Pay attention to your emotional reaction as you read this letter. Do you see Joe through his father's eyes? What is happening to this happy child? What do you believe should be done to help Joe?

Another Approach - Letters by Attorney, Bill Reichhardt

Northern Virginia / Maryland attorney, Bill Reichhardt, is on the ISEA faculty with Pete and Pam and has several articles on our website. He has provided us with three of his excellent letters. He is the author of the letters, not the parent. The letters have pseudonyms and are not the actual names. Click here to see the letters.

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Last updated: 08/05/2014

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