If you are to be an effective advocate for your child, it helps to have concrete evidence to support your position. Just like an attorney bolsters his defense with photographs, emails, voice recordings, fingerprints and DNA, you can bolster your defense of your child and his needs with evidence.
What evidence should you be collecting?
- Report cards from school, day care centers, preschools, tutoring centers or private tutors.
- Evaluations by teachers, psychologists, reading specialists occupational therapists and other professionals.
- Email strings with educators about your child.
- Medical records of all regular physicals and ER visits and lists of medications taken and names and dates of illnesses.
- Dated samples of the child’s work, especially ones with teacher comments.
- Observations from people who know the child well—grandmothers, coaches and friend’s parents, but especially you. From the moment you suspect there might be something out of the usual, begin a diary and regularly report your observations.
- Your own notes of meetings with teachers and other educational specialists. As soon as the meeting is over, write down what happened, what was discussed, and what actions were decided on. Get others at the meeting to vouch in writing for the accuracy of your observations. This might be with their signatures or with a return email.
- Lists of books and other materials the child has read with dates.
- Excerpts from laws which govern that aspect of education for which you are advocating.
How should you collect this information? Create a file for your child. It could be a hanging file in your file cabinet, a large envelope, or a three-ring binder. If the information comes to you online, you could create an online file, but it is good to make a hard copy as well, something you can bring to a meeting.
You might be thinking this degree of record keeping is ridiculous. But if you are to be a good advocate for your child, you will find it easier if you have “proof” of your observations and concerns. Educators and their attorneys will listen to you more respectfully if you come prepared with data to back up your points. Sometimes, this is the only way to get your child the education he deserves and that the law requires.