Parents are the natural advocates for their children. Yet when it comes to advocating for their special needs, they often do not have the important information organized, which delays and can prevent the provision of these special needs.

When I practiced real estate, matrimonial, and elder law, I often got clients’ paperwork dumped on my desk from a paper bag. It took me hours to organize the information, and I had to charge my clients for my time.

Yet parents really know far more about their children than anyone else. To make it easier for me to take your child’s case and to begin strong advocacy of your child’s special needs, I am offering an organizational plan created by peter Wright, JD. Yet if you can’t manage to accomplish this organizational plan, I am still ready and willing to do the organization for you.

As the parent of a child with a disability, you have two goals:

To ensure that the school provides your child with a “free appropriate public education” that includes “specially designed instruction . . . to meet the [child’s] unique needs . . .” (20 U.S.C. §1401)

To build a healthy working relationship with the school.

Step 1. Keep Written Records

Because documents are often the keys to success, keep written records. The school can always argue that if a statement is not written down, it was not said. Make sure you make requests in writing and write polite follow-up letters to document events, discussions, and meetings.

Step 2. Ask Questions, Listen to Answers

When you are alone with the school team, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Listen carefully to answers. Use “Who, What, Why, Where, When, How, and Explain Questions” (5 Ws + H + E) to discover the true reasons for positions.

Step 3. Identify Problems

Don’t waste valuable time and energy looking for people to blame. I can do that if necessary, by quoting the law!

Step 4. Propose Solutions

Let me know what issues you believe are the most important, and together we can discuss issues and make offers or proposals. Together we seek “win-win” solutions that will satisfy the interests of parents and schools.

Step 5. Plan for the Future

What are your long-term goals for your child? What do you envision for your child in the future?

If you are like most parents, you are focused on the present. You haven’t given much thought to the future.

Do you expect your child to be an independent, self-sufficient member of the community?

Although some children with disabilities will require assistance as adults, most will grow up to be adults who hold jobs, get married, and live independently.

If you have a vision about what you want for your child in the future, you are more likely to achieve your goals.

If you believe others will make long-term plans for your child and provide your child with the necessary skills to be an independent, self-sufficient member of society, you are likely to be disappointed.

Step 6. Answer Questions

What do you want for your child? What are your goals for your child's future? Do you have a master plan for your child's education?

If you want your child to grow up to be an independent adult, what does your child need to learn before he or she leaves the public school system?

What do you want?

Step 7. Develop a Master Plan

If you are like many parents, you don't have a master plan. You don't know where you are, where you need to go, or how to get there. Do not expect school personnel to make long-term plans for your child -- this is your responsibility and one I can assist you with.

Begin by thinking about your vision for your child's future. What are your long-term goals for your child? What will your child need to learn? What services and supports will your child need to meet these goals?

Here is a list of supplies that will help you get started organizing the mound of paperwork you have collected about your child:

  • Two 3-ring notebooks (one for your child’s file; one for information about your child’s disability and educational information)

  • 3-hole punch

  • Highlighters

  • Package of sticky notes

  • #10 Envelopes

  • Stamps

  • Calendar

  • Journal

  • Contact log

  • Small tape recorder

As I said above, I can certainly assist you with this organization! At our first 2-hour conference, we will discuss the issues I’ve pointed out in this article. Then I will take your paperwork home, analyze it, and come back with a detailed written assessment of your child’s needs. Then you and I can decide how to move forward.

Contact us 201-379-4040 to arrange an appointment.