This isn’t a sexy blog post, but it is an essential reminder: put any concerns about your child’s progress, services they may or may not be receiving, IEP, 504 plan, Zoom issues, etc. in writing. If you do not document your concerns it may feel like the conversations you had with the well-intentioned teachers or other school officials never happened.
I received a call yesterday from a mom who was looking for some quick advice. Not an easy ask for an attorney, but I did my best. I was thinking about the conversation and this tip I provided to her, and thought it would make for a good reminder to everyone who is dealing with these issues – Anytime you have concerns about your child’s special education program, put them in writing. Documentation can be in the form of a log, calendar, checklists, running task or journal entries on your phone, letters, emails, or samples of schoolwork. The point is for you to keep documentation and provide documentation to the school. The documentation will be helpful to you as you prepare for an initial meeting, IEP team meeting, 504 plan meeting, or even a parent-teacher conference because you will be able to reference back to your emails and revisit the concerns you had in the moment.
Documenting your concerns also helps keep the school team accountable because it puts issues on the record, which generally requires some sort of action/response from the school. If the school does not respond, then you have the paper trail to prove you raised concerns and never received a response. Paper trails serve as important protections.
This is not to say you should only communicate in writing. It is foundational to build relationships with your child’s school team and relationships are built by conversations (phone, in-person, or Zoom). After the conversation, it is important to follow-up with a quick polite email detailing (short bullets are fine) what was discussed to ensure everyone is on the same page. The email also serves as a record for any action steps necessary on part of the school (i.e., call a team meeting, send home authorization for an assessment, etc.), which you can use to check-in on progress as necessary.
Documenting your concerns and communications with the school is an important tool in advocating for your child. Use it to your advantage. If you have questions or need support because your discussions with school aren’t going in a productive direction, please contact me.