Do This First

"For every minute spent in organizing, an hour is earned.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

Get organized.

That's often my initial advice for parents new to special education.

School-related paperwork breeds faster than rabbits.

Navigating the special education system is stressful on its own. While being organized won't eliminate the stress, it will tilt it toward resting between the stressful and stress-free zones.

One day you have a few sheets, the next day, you're fifteen years down the road, with a few dozen binders stuffed with paperwork. Death by paperwork isn't the way to go, so file everything that comes in when it comes in, rather than saving it for later.

Some parents organize documents by year. I ditched that approach at the outset, because it meant carrying dozens of folders to each meeting.

The IEP binder and the Tests/Evaluations/Grades binder come to every meeting. Both of these are organized by year — and fall in the 5-inch binder category.

While the school tends to have IEPs on hand during meetings, data sources have a way of going missing in action. Better to be the only person in the room with the data source, than to rely on someone else's faulty memory.

Just a few of the binders on my shelf:

  • IEP/IEP Progress Reports/IEP Meeting Notifications/Prior Written Notices
  • Transition
  • College board
  • Registration
  • Cumulative Records
  • Screening Files
  • Mediation
  • Due Process
  • State Complaints
  • FOIA
  • State Best Practice/Guidance Documents
  • U.S. Dept of Ed "Dear Colleague" Letters and Guidance
  • FERPA Office
  • Articles/Research
  • Office of Civil Rights

There are a lot of things to worry about. Don't add the stress of not being able to put your hands on that important letter or test or document or whatever it is to the list.