Organizing Your Child’s Special Education File: Do It Right
Organizing Your Child’s Special Education
“Do the hard jobs first. The easy jobs will take care of themselves.”
~ Dale Carnegie
The special education system generates mountains of paper. Some information is important so you are afraid to throw anything away. The mountain of paper grows higher every year. What do you do with it? How do you organize this information?
You need a simple, foolproof document management system. In this article, you will learn how to organize your child’s file. After you organize the information about your child into a file, you will have a clearer understanding of your child’s disability and needs.
Document Management System
Think about the last school meeting. Did the IEP team members have a complete copy of your child’s file? Did you have a complete copy of your child’s file? How can the IEP team make decisions about your child’s special education program if they do not have complete, accurate information about your child?
Schools keep records in different places. Information and reports are misplaced. When you organize your child’s file, you will have all the information about your child in one place. With our document management system, you can track your child’s educational history. When you use this parent-tested system, you can quickly locate any document in your child’s file.
When you take your organized file to the next school meeting, you will understand the power of getting organized. You will gain a sense of control.
Gather Information About Your Child
Follow these steps to get information about your child.
Make a Master Provider List
Make a list of all individuals and agencies that may have information or records about your child. Your list should include the names and titles of all professionals who have provided medical or mental health treatment services, including doctors, therapists, and other health care providers. Include their addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and email addresses. You may want to develop your list by category of service rendered, e.g., medical, educational, psychological evaluations.
Request Your Child’s Records
Send a letter to all individuals and agencies on your list and request a copy of your child’s records. Explain that your request relates to a school issue and the need to secure an appropriate education for your child. Ask if you should expect to pay a photocopying fee and what this fee will be. Your letters should be neat and convey a professional image.
Tip: See Chapter 23 in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy for sample letters to request information and records.
If you do not receive a response within ten days, send a short letter explaining that you requested information ten days ago and have not received a response. Attach a copy of your original letter to the second request letter. Ask if you can do anything to help expedite the request. Offer to visit the office to help copy the information. Be polite.
Tip: Make photocopies of all letters for your file.
Request Your Child’s Educational Records
Write a letter to the school and request a complete copy of your child’s entire cumulative file and confidential file, omitting nothing. You want copies of all evaluations, records, correspondence, and other documents the school has about your child. Use a word processor for your letter. Expect to pay a reasonable photocopying fee.
Tip: See more sample letters at the end of Chapters 23 and 24 in Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy.
Send one letter to the principal of your child’s school and one letter to the director of special education. If you do not know the director’s name and address, call the main office of the school district and request this information. If your child does not attend a public school, send the letter to the principal of the last public school your child attended.
Before you mail these letters, sign them and make copies of the signed letters for your Master File. Log the letters into your contact log.
(Continued on page 2)