The Most Important Thing Parents Aren’t Doing That Will Change the Special Education Game Entirely

Whether you are advocating for your own child, or contemplating hiring a special education consultant or attorney to help you, there is one thing that very few parents are doing, but that could mean the difference between getting what you want and what your child is entitled to, and being stuck with what the school system thinks is sufficient.


Here it is: documenting everything and keeping organized, complete records. If you think you are doing a good job at this, I’d estimate that 9 out of 10 of parents I see are not, so you might reconsider!


And not just a folder full of papers or a thousand computer files. What’s relevant? Basically everything, but there are specific things you need (more on this in a minute). It can be digital, but only if it’s organized. Or it can be paper… but it STILL must be organized.


There are two ways you can organize your documentation. By subject (IEPS, Assessments, Correspondence, etc.) in separate tabs in a binder or separate folders on your computer, or, by year.


I recommend that your organized yourself by year (if you are already organized by subject, DON’T REORGANIZE! You’re fine. You’re ahead of the game. Most people have an overflowing box, or nothing).


I like to organize by year because for each year there is a concrete list of documents that you need to have in order to have a complete file and therefore a complete picture of your child’s program, progress and needs. If you are missing something on the list for this year or last year, you know you need to request records from your child’s school or think back and review emails to recreate your own records.


For each year that your child has an IEP (including the year that you and/or the school system first began discussing eligibility), you should have almost all of these things:

·       IEP (more than one if changes were made during the year). Make sure it is NOT marked “draft.”

·       Meeting Notices from the school (these say when the meeting is going to be and what will be discussed), for EVERY meeting.

·      Prior Written Notice” or “Meeting Notes” from the school team for EVERY meeting. This should say what happened at the meeting and what was decided.

·      Your own notes from EVERY meeting. …WHAT? You didn’t take notes? Bring a friend to help next time, because you need notes.

·       Assessments/Evaluations. A report for EVERY assessment completed, basically since the beginning of time, but at least for the past three years. 

·       Quarterly Progress Reports for EVERY quarter your child had an IEP. The school should have provided this to you. If they didn’t, ask for it. Every quarter. It’s required. This should have NUMBERS on it that quantify progress towards the IEP goals. Not just subjective notes. This INCLUDES the final quarter of the IEP, where it should say whether your child met each goal or not. Wow, that’s a lot of words for a bullet point. BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT!

·       Your Correspondence Log. Every phone call you have with ANYONE at school (plus outside providers), and a summary of every email. Summarize emails but keep them digitally in your email account until they are needed. I suggest you use a 4 column set up, like this:















If you have all of these things, and you make yourself very familiar with them all, you will have what you need to make the best possible decisions for your child, to support your arguments, and to track progress. If you decide to work with any outside professionals, including consultants and attorneys, you will save yourself money because they will have everything they need to advise you without having to ask, organize, and follow up. Plus, they will think you are so organized! You will be their favorite client! They will bake you cookies… well…probably not because they will be too busy organizing someone else’s files. 



Happy Advocating!    

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