by Cora Shahid
California Hands & Voices Membership Chair
All parents intuitively want to be good advocates for their child but in the beginning, we might not know exactly how to do that. Here are some steps that you can take to help you be effective while becoming more experienced. Know your child’s strengths and weaknesses, the law and how it relates to your child, be courteous and respectful while standing up for your child’s rights, stay organized, keep track of conversations and be prepared for meetings.
One way to help with all of this is to create a three ring binder “Growing My Way” where you can keep track of your child’s journey. Why is this step important you ask? Because our memory fades fast and details can get distorted. Keeping this binder up to date will help you and the professionals working with your child/family, to stay better informed. I encourage you to personalize the binder with photos of your family and remember to enjoy and celebrate all of the noteworthy progress along the way! Tip: Keep the most current information on the top.
Possible sections might include but are not limited to
- Name and contact info of all professionals, communication log, and a calendar
- All about the child and his/her talents, the family, places you go and things you enjoy to do
- Resources/articles you find helpful related to your child’s specific needs and goals
- Immunizations records, developmental checklist, audiograms and medical reports
- Evaluations, IFSP/IEP, Questions to ask and your goals for your family
- Parent’s Rights / Special Ed process / Legal information
- Glossary / Acronyms
Keeping track of all communications regarding your child is important. What to keep a record of: The date/time, reason for the call, who you spoke to and their job title, a summary of what they said including what was agreed to during the conversation and any disagreements, who will follow up, the date, and in what means will the follow up happen.
Follow up email
It is a good idea to send a follow up email to confirm the details of any conversation. This will help to ensure that both parties’ messages were delivered and received accurately. Misunderstandings are never helpful! Summarize the phone call and ask for a reply if any portion was incorrect. The email thread can then be printed and placed in the binder.