In all my years of working with children with special needs, I have met three “Notebook Parents”. Notebook Parents are wonderful sources of information about their child and powerful advocates for their child. When a parent walks into an IEP or 504 meeting, sits down, and flips that notebook open, every school person in the room snaps to attention. This is a parent on the ball! This is a parent who knows what’s going on! Parents are supposed to be equal participants in IEP and 504 meetings, and the notebook makes that possible.
Ready to take the challenge? Here’s what to do:
- Get a large binder with dividers and find a three-hole punch. You will have four sections, organized in chronological order from back to front.
- Evaluation information
- IEP’s or 504 plans
- Placement and evaluation paperwork.
- Regular education information
- In the evaluation section, you will keep a copy of every report that has been written about your child. This includes psychological reports, medical reports, speech/language reports – everything, including evaluations that you obtained privately. Most parents have medical reports, reports from the eye doctor – that sort of thing.
- In the IEP/504 section you will keep a copy of every IEP/504 plan, along with the progress notes. If a document is amended during its year run, keep copies of the amended pages as well.
- In the paperwork section, keep your copies of all the legal paperwork – every scrap.
- In the regular education section, keep report cards, statewide testing results, district assessments, discipline reports, and any notes or emails from teachers that relate to your child’s disability.
Many parents have a lot of this information on their computers these days, and it’s certainly possible to bring your laptop to an IEP meeting or 504 conference. But there is just something about the notebook that makes a strong statement of power and credibility.