Where Do I Start?


Documentation is an extremely effective tool for advocacy efforts. Often, it's the key to success when dealing with difficult situations. Documentation calls for accountability and also allows for kudos when things go right. The basics are simple:

  • Gather up all your child's records, such as IEP's (Individual Education Plan), school multidisciplinary evaluations, medical records, and any correspondence with people regarding your child's education, medical conditions, or disabilities.

  • Separate them and file them in a large 3-ring binder, sectioned off for categories such as medical, evals, correspondence, IEPs. If you aren't very organized, at least put them into several large, labeled (evaluations, IEP's, medical records, correspondence, etc), manila envelopes.

    I keep the latest IEP with the latest multidisciplinary evaluation. I believe a good IEP is really an extension of the evaluation, and the two are tied closely together. The new Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) also recognizes the importance of linking the two documents. Too often the evaluation is never consulted during the actual planning at an IEP meeting. Doing this is the equivalent of getting a medical physical, then no one ever looking at the results or using them for guidance in treatment. Parents need to review both documents and have them on the table before them at any IEP meeting. It would be helpful if administrators and teachers would also refer to both documents.

  • Keep a copy of everything. If anything the district writes in longhand is illegible, ask an administrator to please remain so that you might write out that person's review of the information. Then ask that person to sign the document stating that your rewritten information is accurate.

    If you get a computer printout of the IEP at the end of the meeting, you're entitled to take a copy home and review it thoroughly before you sign anything. It's your responsibility to return the document promptly and either agree or disagree with it.

    The only way I'm comfortable with such an IEP, written sight unseen on a computer, is if the district uses commonly available technology and projects the IEP onto a screen, as it's being written. This is a wonderful approach that enables all team participants to review and correct any misinterpretation during the meeting itself. It also affords a very clear, legible document.

  • Ask for a white copy of any carbon document. Carbon smears over time and becomes illegible.

  • Keep an informal journal or notepad by your phone. Record every effort you make to contact school personnel, the date, reply, who the contact was with, and a brief summary of the visit or telephone call.

  • When you attend any meeting, or if you initiate a phone call, have a written list of points you want addressed. Cross them off as they are discussed. Often parents think of those important points after the meeting has ended.

  • Follow up every contact with a "letter of understanding".

next: Writing an Individualized Education Plan The Logical Steps
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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2007, June 7). Where Do I Start?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 23 from

Last Updated: February 13, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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