At Wrightslaw, our goals are to help you gain the information and skills you need to navigate the confusing world of special education. In this issue, we look at strategies you can use to start the new school year on the right foot.
writing strategies - how to use letters, logs, calendars and
journals; how to use storytelling to persuade; the original
"Letter to the Stranger," other Letters to the Stranger
from cases; more resources about letters, documents, and paper
trails; advocacy training in Richmond, VA.
The Special Ed Advocate newsletter is free - please forward this issue or the subscription link to your friends and colleagues so they can learn about special education law and advocacy too. We appreciate your help!
"If it was not written down, it was not said. If it was not written down, it did not happen." -- Pete Wright
When you advocate for a child with a disability, you write letters to:
You use letters to build relationships, identify and solve problems, clarify decisions that are made or not made, and motivate people to take action.
your requests in writing. Write polite follow-up letters to document
events, discussions, and meetings. Train yourself to write things
If you have a dispute with the school, your logs and letters are independent evidence that support your memory. Documents that support your position will help you resolve disputes early. Your tools are simple:
you follow our advice about how to write letters and document
events, discussions, and meetings, you can often resolve problems
before parent-school relations get strained and polarized.
2. Letter to the Stranger: Storytelling to Persuade
When you read Storytelling to Persuade, you will see how one father used the storytelling approach to ask the school district to help his son and reimburse him for the costs of his son's special education.
attention to your emotional reaction as you read the father's Letter
to the Stranger:
This letter is an exhibit in Joseph James v. Upper Arlington School District. In September, 2000, the U. S. Court of Appeals issued this decision in Joe's case:
3. Original Letter to the Stranger by Janie Bowman & Pete Wright
When you write a Letter to the Stranger, you use facts to tell your story and provide support for your solution. Do not blame, criticize or find fault. Your goal is to create a desire to help from the decision-making Stranger.
Before you attempt to write a Letter to the Stranger, you should read and study the original Letter to the Stranger by Janie Bowman and Pete Wright.
Who is this Stranger? How does he think? How can you persuade him to help? For the answers to these questions, read the original Letter to the Stranger at:
4. From Emotions to Advocacy - New Reviews
Wrightslaw: From Emotions to Advocacy includes chapters about paper trails and documentation, how to write good letters, and how to write the "Letter to the Stranger." You will find more than a dozen sample letters in the Appendix.
"Expect this book to be tabbed and dog-eared as it becomes an invaluable advocacy tool." - The Tourette Gazette (Fall 2002)
"Information is presented in a clear, concise format. You will not want to skip a single page . . . the book you will pull out before every meeting . . . gives families a clear roadmap to effective advocacy for their child. We award their work the Exceptional Parent Symbol of Excellence." - Exceptional Parent
5. Letter to the Stranger & Decision: James Brody's Case
James Brody has dyslexia. After 6 years of special education, James was illiterate - he could not read. Instead of teaching James to read, the teachers would read to him. Sound familiar?
Read the letter that James Brody's parents wrote to request a due process hearing. Do you see how the parents' letter told the story of James' education?
Pay close attention to the use of test scores in this letter - these scores were the key to a successful outcome in James' case.
After you read the letter, read the decision in James Brody's case:
More Resources: Letter Writing and Paper Trails
links to these and other articles about letter writing, documenting
and creating paper trails, please visit the Letter
Writing & Paper Trails page:
6. Wrightslaw Advocacy Training in Richmond, VA - September 16, 2002
Parents of children with disabilities encounter many obstacles when they advocate for their children. Two obstacles are isolation and lack of information. We are working to remove these obstacles.
On September 16, we will present a full day of advocacy training in Richmond. You will learn about:
More Information . . .
Seminars & Training Schedule
7. Subscription & Contact Info
The Special Ed Advocate is a free online newsletter about special education legal and advocacy issues, cases, tactics and strategy, and Internet resources. Subscribers receive announcements and "alerts" about new cases, events, and special offers on Wrightslaw books.