STEP . Meet with your child's teacher(s). Share information about his/her disability and provide information about what works best. Most teachers are interested in learning strategies which will help your child experience success in school.

STEP . If your child continues to display academic and/or behavior problems, request pre-referral support (Instructional Support Team, Title I reading or math services or a behavior plan). Many schools provide "Response to Intervention" (RtI) supports to provide interventions early with ongoing progress monitoring rather than using a "wait to fail" approach.

STEP . If your school does not have an Instructional Support Team, Title I services or use an RtI approach or if you believe your child needs special education, request and give consent, in writing, for a Multidisciplinary Evaluation of your child. (Request for Evaluation.) Learn about Tests and Measurements.

STEP . Request, in writing, copies of your child's school records. . (See Sample Letter: Request for Records.) It's a good idea to collect records, key school papers, test results, evaluations, current and previous IEP's, medical reports, information about your child's disability etc. and organize in a 3-ring notebook. By organizing this information, reviewing and taking it to meetings involving your child, you will appear (and feel) prepared and well-informed. The notebook will also be helpful in preparing well-written IEP's or Service Agreements. (ABC Notebook.) Also see:

* "How to Get Your Child's Records - and Why It's Important"
* "How to Analyze and Correct Your Child's School Records in Four Steps"

STEP . All communication to and from the school should be in writing. If the school refuses to provide all requested records, refuses to evaluate your child, if a service is promised, a waiting list discussed or a reason for lack of a service given, ask that the reason be put in writing with the date the statement was made. (See "Prior Written Notice") Also, when you make a request for service or are dissatisfied or concerned about a service, write a letter stating your child's name, date of birth, your concerns and a request for a response from the school within a reasonable period of time. Keep copies of all communication and add to your notebook. Also, keep a telephone log where you can record the dates of conversations with school personnel, what was said, and who said it.

STEP . If the Evaluation Report states that the team has determined that your child has a disability but is not eligible for special education, you may request an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) or a Chapter 15/Section 504 Service Agreement. You may also request mediation or a due process hearing if you do not agree with the school team. (See Sample Request for an IEE.)

STEP . Prepare a list of your child's strengths, interests, and needs and include this list in your notebook. It's essential that your child's strengths, interests, and unique learning style are identified and enlisted to compensate for weaker areas. Your knowledge of your child along with evaluation results are essential in the preparation of a well written educational plan.

STEP . Before meeting with school personnel, decide which classroom interventions you feel would most benefit your child. See: General Education Accommodations and Accommodations vs. Modifications. If your child has academic deficits (e.g., in reading, math), request remediation in addition to accommodations. These interventions can be included in your child's educational plan (IEP or Service Agreement).

It is important to have reports from professionals, letters, and research articles which support your point of view. (For example, some educators suggest grade retention for students with learning disabilities or ADD who are failing. Research does not support this view. see

* Grade Retention: Achievement and Mental Health Outcomes and
* 10 Strategies to Fight Mandatory Retention & Other Damaging Policies

If behavior is a concern, the IEP must include a behavior support plan. For assistance in preparing IEP goals and objectives, go to:

  1. Wrightslaw Game Plan: Writing Good IEP Goals & Objectives.
  2. IEP Resources (Updated 8/07)
  3. The Access Center: Improving Outcomes for All Students
    The mission of the Access Center is to provide technical assistance that strengthens State and local capacity to help students with disabilities effectively learn in the general education curriculum.
    The Access Center provides excellent (free!) online "webinars" on important issues. Webinars are archived for ready access later.
  4. "The IEP team must begin placement discussions with consideration of the regular education classroom and the supplementary aids and services needed to enable a student with a disability to benefit from educational services ("least restrictive environment or LRE"). Benefit from educational services is measured by progress toward the goals and objectives of the student's IEP, not by mastery of the general education curriculum, and is not limited to academic progress alone."

STEP . Be a good communicator at school meetings. Acknowledge special efforts and when good things happen at school. Consider the meeting an opportunity to solve problems together. Compromise may be necessary. Don't hesitate to ask questions if terms are unclear or an issue needs to be clarified. It is the job of professionals to explain terms, evaluation results, recommendations, and programs.
· Repeat what is said to make sure you understand.
· Don't feel pressured to make a decision.
· Take a break to consult, cool off if needed.
· End meeting with a plan of action or "next steps".
. Schedule a follow-up meeting if needed.

STEP . Keep track of issues discussed and recommendations made at school meetings. It's important to take notes. You may want to take a friend or advocate who can take notes and provide moral support. It's a good idea to prepare a "Letter of Understanding" as a follow up to school meetings.

STEP . You do not have to decide whether to approve or disapprove the IEP at the meeting. The law permits you up to 5 days to respond if the IEP was provided at the meeting, or 10 days if the IEP was mailed to you. It's often wise to review the IEP and NOREP (Notice of Recommended Educational Placement) at home or consult with an advocate prior to approving the program and placement.

STEP .If you cannot reach an agreement, it may be necessary to leave the room to confer with your friend or advocate. It may even be necessary to stop the meeting and suggest that it be rescheduled for a later date. At this point, it may be wise to consult an advocate, the Education Law Center, or an attorney before meeting again. You may also request that an IEP Facilitator attend your next IEP meeting. Also, realize that, in some cases, compromises cannot be reached. Due Process Procedures are built into the law for these situations.

(Adapted from "Advocating for Your Child" by the Parent Education Network and "The Advocacy Notebook" by Pam Cook , M.Ed. and Ellen Kosh, R.N., CH.A.D.D.ER BOX, February, 1993)