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Good Documentation is Essential to Your Success: Write Things Down When They Happen
by Sharon D., advocate from New York City

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writing in a notebook

Your goal at the next IEP meeting(s) is to obtain additional special education and related services that meet your child's needs. Your child is likely to need compensatory education to make up for the education lost when schools were closed. A successful outcome at the next IEP meeting depends on the documentation you make available to the IEP team.

You can't wait until the last minute to prepare this documentation. Documenting events and conversations later is never as effective or accurate as writing things down, in detail, at the time they occur.

If your child has an IEP, the IEP document will describe the special eduation and related services the school agreed your child needed and the school would provide.

Start with a fresh new notebook or a create a new document in your device. Begin to document by logging things in that happened today. Did your child receive any special education services today? If yes, please describe those serices. Did anyone on his special ed team contact your child or you? What was the nature of this contact? Feel free to add other information about how your child spent time today. Perhaps you took him for a walk in a nearby park or baked cupcakes together.

Continue to document the services he receives and the contacts you have with school personnel over the next few months. Don't think about stopping until after your child has made a successful transition back to school. Here are examples of services you may request at an IEP meeting after your child returns to school. You will see how ocumentation can increase your odds of success.

1. Establish Child's Need for a Paraprofessional

If you plan to request a paraprofessional, you need documentation showing that your child needs this service.

Ask your child's teacher(s) to keep meticulous records of everything they observe that supports your request for the para. Provide the teachers with a set of anecdotal forms.

The teacher anecdotal forms should include:

* the precipitating event,
* the child’s action,
* the teacher’s response, and
* the child’s reaction to the teacher’s response.

If your child is sent to the principal’s office, staple a note to the principal with information about what happened in the anecdotal report.

Two to three weeks worth of anecdotal reports are usually sufficient to validate the child’s need for a paraprofessional.

Each incident or event should be clearly described, dated and signed.

If you plan to request additional services for your child, provide your child’'s teachers with a set of anecdotal forms early in the school year.

Assume your child needs speech therapy.
Ask the teachers to write notes about times when articulation errors affected the child’s academics (i.e., poor spelling as a result of producing sounds incorrectly, etc.). If your child has a reading problem, ask the teacher to document this by describing times when your child had problems reading in class (i.e., in reading comprehension, context clues, cloze, etc.).

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

2. Establish Child Continues to Need a Paraprofessional

If your child has a paraprofessional or a shadow, provide this 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 use the notebook to document incidents that occur in the classroom, at recess, on the bus, etc., every day.

The entries should include:

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

Each entry should be dated and signed. This log will support your child’'s need for continued services from the paraprofessional.

3. The Parent's Job

Parents, it is your job to keep a complete, accurate record of all tests and assessments given to your child.


* Don’t highlight information in evaluations.

* Use Post-it notes to write your observations or call attention to specific information in tests and other important documents.

* Make copies of tests and quizzes with the Post-it notes attached.

* When you attend an IEP 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.

* Present your log book for the team’s review. The team can make copies of any entries they want as part of your child’s record. Be sure to take your book back at the end of the meeting.

* Present duplicates of tests in a folder so they are part of the record.

Don't be afraid to be a strong advocate for your child. When you present documents that support your request for a specific service, your child'’s team will respect you and hold you in higher regard. The team is also 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.

Revised: 09/16/21

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