Getting the help your child needs could take months or even years. You need to be organised and thorough.
Read things carefully
There may be a lot of letters, reports and other documents to read. Don’t panic if you find them confusing or hard to read at times. Everyone does.
If you get a letter from the school or local authority, read it carefully and check that you agree with it. if you don’t, reply politely pointing out what you think is not correct or not clear.
For all documents, ask yourself: is this accurate, clear and complete?
· It must be accurate – is the letter or report correct in what it says?
· Is it clear – is there any room for confusion or uncertainty about what is written? if there is it may be hard to argue later.
· Is it complete – have things been left out that should have been included?
If the letter or report does not seem accurate, clear and complete, get back to whoever sent it to you and point out where you are unhappy. If you don’t, they may say later that you accepted what they wrote.
If you aren’t sure, show the letter or report to someone who also knows your child and get their opinion too.
Make sure things get there
When sending letters to the Local Authority, use Recorded Delivery. If you are delivering something by hand, get a receipt.
Things do go astray, and if you have a record of when something was delivered, or signed for, it can help to prove you did submit an important report by a deadline.
Always check that any email doesn’t bounce back. If it does, ring up to check the email address.
If you haven’t had a reply or acknowledgment within a week, resend the email until you do.
You should keep a record of all contact you have with the Local Authority, your child’s school, professionals – letters, emails, phone calls, texts, meetings.
Always keep a record of who said or wrote what, to whom, and when.
When you can, communicate by writing (email or letter) rather than phoning, as then you will have a record which may be useful evidence later if you appeal.
Keep copies of every letter, and a note of what went to whom and when.
If you do have a telephone conversation, write down what was said immediately afterwards, by you and the person you have been speaking to.
Unless you write everything down, you will forget things. And if you have a written record of what was said to you, it will make it easier to prove what was agreed if there is any disagreement at a later stage.
In an appeal, a record can be helpful evidence. The notes or records can be kept on a computer, and reports can be scanned in and kept in date order. You could also consider emailing this file to a 'spare' email or other online account in the event of an issue with your computer.
Letters and emails
Firstly, briefly say what you are writing about.
Make your points clearly and directly.
Have a separate paragraph for each point. If useful, number the paragraphs.
Don’t include anything that is irrelevant to this particular letter.
Keep a copy of all letters and copy emails to yourself so you know what was sent and when.
Try to have someone with you ‘on your side’ at any meeting – one person to talk and the other to take notes. It could be a friend, or someone from a parent support group.
Make notes of who says what.
Start the meeting by saying what you want to discuss.
Listen to what the other person is saying, and if you disagree put your points politely but firmly to them.
As soon as possible after the meeting, type or write out your notes and send them to everyone who attended the meeting, by email or letter.
Write that you are enclosing the notes of the meeting and would like a response by a certain date (usually about a week later) after which you will take it that your notes have been accepted as an accurate record of the meeting.
In this way you can gather clear evidence about what was agreed, or said, at a certain time.
Avoid having a discussion about your child's special educational needs during the general Parents’ Evening when there may not be time (or privacy) to discuss your child's needs properly. Instead ask for a separate meeting.
Evidence is very powerful in a meeting and especially in an appeal.
If it is relevant, keep a diary of your child’s behaviour. A 24 hour detailed record of what is happening can be hard to argue against.
Think about using photographs, audio or video. Video evidence especially can be very strong. Keep it short and relevant to the issues you need to prove. A couple of minutes may be enough – certainly don’t record more than 15 minutes. For more information about evidence see here.