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Tactics & Strategies:
Using Story-Telling to Persuade

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Cam and Nancy's son Joe has dyslexia and dysgraphia. Although Joe "received services" in the district's "One-Size-Fits-All Reading Program" for years, he didn't learn to read.

Eventually, Joe's parents withdrew him from the public school program and placed him The Kildonan School, a private special education school in New York.

At Kildonan, Joe received intensive remediation. He learned to read. The parents want the district to reimburse them for Joe's tuition at Kildonan School.

Use Story-Telling to Persuade

If Cam and Nancy use story-telling to persuade, they will focus on their interests, not their position. They will tell Joe's story to make their case.

They will not blame school personnel or the OSFA Reading Program. I
f they blame or criticize, school personnel will react defensively: "We are the experts on how children learn. We are proud of our One-Size-Fits-All Reading Program. As the educational experts, we know your son will be better served in our OSFA Program." (This is the school's position.)

How can Joe's parents make their case to the decision-makers?

Writing a "Letter to the Stranger"

Joe's father wrote a carefully crafted Letter to the Stranger (pdf)  Letter in html

In this letter, you meet Joe. You learn how his problems unfolded. You feel his parents' anxiety and fear as they watch Joe's personality change.

Pay attention to your emotional reaction as you read this letter. 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?

Letter to the Stranger
Letter to the Stranger (html)

When you write a Letter to the Stranger, use facts to tell your story and offer 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.

More Articles About Writing a "Letter to the Stranger"

Due Process Complaint Letter. After the school district refused to provide a Section 504 plan for Josh, an independent evaluator advised an IEP and accommodations for learning disabilities in written expression, reading fluency, and slow processing speed.The school district said "No." This due process complaint letter was modeled after the "Letter to the Stranger" and gives a play by play of Josh's story. Learn the outcome in Josh's success story.

Original "Letter to the Stranger" by Janie Bowman and Peter Wright, posted on the CompuServe ADD Forum in 1994. This article is part of a Smithsonian Exhibit about online culture and communities. 

James Brody. Read 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.

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