The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
September 3, 2002

Issue - 177

ISSN: 1538-3202

In this Issue

Documents, Letters & Paper Trails

Storytelling to Persuade

Letter to the Stranger by Janie Bowman & Pete Wright

From Emotions to Advocacy - New Reviews

Letter to the Stranger & Decision in James Brody's Case

Advocacy Training in Richmond, VA (Sept 16, 2003)

Subscription & Contact Info

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At Wrightslaw, our goals are to help you gain the information and skills you need to navigate the confusing world of special education. In this issue, we look at strategies you can use to start the new school year on the right foot.

Highlights: Letter writing strategies - how to use letters, logs, calendars and journals; how to use storytelling to persuade; the original "Letter to the Stranger," other Letters to the Stranger from cases; more resources about letters, documents, and paper trails; advocacy training in Richmond, VA.

Download the online version of this newsletter:


The Special Ed Advocate newsletter is free - please forward this issue or the subscription link to your friends and colleagues so they can learn about special education law and advocacy too. We appreciate your help!


1. Letter Writing Strategies: Documents, Letters and Paper Trails

"If it was not written down, it was not said. If it was not written down, it did not happen." -- Pete Wright

When you advocate for a child with a disability, you write letters to:

* Request information
* Request action
* Provide information or describe an event
* Decline a request
* Express appreciation

You use letters to build relationships, identify and solve problems, clarify decisions that are made or not made, and motivate people to take action.

Make your requests in writing. Write polite follow-up letters to document events, discussions, and meetings. Train yourself to write things down!

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. Your tools are simple:

  • Logs
  • Calendars
  • Journals

When you follow our advice about how to write letters and document events, discussions, and meetings, you can often resolve problems before parent-school relations get strained and polarized.

Read Letters, Documents & Paper Trails at:


2. Letter to the Stranger: Storytelling to Persuade

When you read Storytelling to Persuade, you will see how one father used the storytelling approach to ask the school district to help his son and reimburse him for the costs of his son's special education.


Pay attention to your emotional reaction as you read the father's Letter to the Stranger:

Letter in pdf: https://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/stranger/joejames.ltr.pdf

Letter in html: https://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/stranger/joejames.htm

Do you see Joe through his father's eyes? What happened to this happy child? Do you understand why the parents removed Joe from the public school program? What do you believe should be done to help Joe and his family?

This letter is an exhibit in Joseph James v. Upper Arlington School District. In September, 2000, the U. S. Court of Appeals issued this decision in Joe's case:


3. Original Letter to the Stranger by Janie Bowman & Pete Wright

When you write a Letter to the Stranger, you use facts to tell your story and provide support for your solution. Do not blame, criticize or find fault. Your goal is to create a desire to help from the decision-making Stranger.

Before you attempt to write a Letter to the Stranger, you should read and study the original Letter to the Stranger by Janie Bowman and Pete Wright.


Who is this Stranger? How does he think? How can you persuade him to help? For the answers to these questions, read the original Letter to the Stranger at:


4. From Emotions to Advocacy - New Reviews

Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy
includes chapters about paper trails and documentation, how to write good letters, and how to write the "Letter to the Stranger." You will find more than a dozen sample letters in the Appendix.

"Expect this book to be tabbed and dog-eared as it becomes an invaluable advocacy tool." - The Tourette Gazette (Fall 2002)

"Information is presented in a clear, concise format. You will not want to skip a single page . . . the book you will pull out before every meeting . . . gives families a clear roadmap to effective advocacy for their child. We award their work the Exceptional Parent Symbol of Excellence." - Exceptional Parent

About FETA: https://www.wrightslaw.com/bks/feta/feta.htm

Order: https://www.wrightslaw.com/store/index.html

5. Letter to the Stranger & Decision: James Brody's Case

James Brody has dyslexia. After 6 years of special education, James was illiterate - he could not read. Instead of teaching James to read, the teachers would read to him. Sound familiar?

Read the letter that James Brody's parents wrote to request a due process hearing. Do you see how the parents' letter told the story of James' education?


Pay close attention to the use of test scores in this letter - these scores were the key to a successful outcome in James' case.

After you read the letter, read the decision in James Brody's case:


More Resources: Letter Writing and Paper Trails

For links to these and other articles about letter writing, documenting and creating paper trails, please visit the Letter Writing & Paper Trails page:


Sample Letters: From Emotions to Advocacy (Appendix I)

6. Wrightslaw Advocacy Training in Richmond, VA - September 16, 2002

Parents of children with disabilities encounter many obstacles when they advocate for their children. Two obstacles are isolation and lack of information. We are working to remove these obstacles.

On September 16, we will present a full day of advocacy training in Richmond.
You will learn about:

* Special education law, rights and responsibilities;
* How to use the bell curve to measure progress & regression;
* How to use tactics & strategies for effective advocacy.

This advocacy training workshop is appropriate for anyone who works with children in the special education system.

All registrants will receive Wrightslaw: Special Education Law and the Virginia Special education Regulations. A buffet lunch will be provided at conference site. Fee: $60. Registration form.

For More Information . . .

Please call 804-355-0300 or 800-649-8481, email information@autismva.org or visit www.autismva.org. Please download and distribute the flyer designed by the Autism Program of Virginia.

Wrightslaw Seminars & Training Schedule

For information about training programs that are scheduled this year, please check our Seminars & Training page: https://www.wrightslaw.com/speak/index.htm

If you are interested in learning how to bring Pete & Pam Wright to your community, please read our FAQs about Seminars:https://www.wrightslaw.com/speak/faqs.htm

7. Subscription & Contact Info

The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal and advocacy issues, cases, tactics and strategy, and Internet resources. Subscribers receive announcements and "alerts" about new cases, events, and special offers on Wrightslaw books. 

To subscribe: https://www.wrightslaw.com/subscribe.htm

Back issues: https://www.wrightslaw.com/archives.htm

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Wrightslaw & The Special Ed Advocate
ISSN: 1538-3202
Pete and Pam Wright
P. O. Box 1008
Deltaville, VA 23043
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