The Family Story Process

Before Sharing Your Concerns with the School District, Create a Non-Emotional Timeline

Different family members have different versions of the same story. Grandma may tell a
very different tale from Mom or Dad. My job is to listen for the underlying thread, and pinpoint
the base of the concern, helping them to see things through each other’s perspective. Then, I give
families the assignment of going home and creating a Non-Emotional Timeline.

We come back together for a guided meeting to review their story as outlined on the timeline. At that second
meeting, we decide if I will tell the story to the school district or if they would prefer to tell it.
The purpose of this second meeting is to guide the family on how to move forward, define topics
of concern, create a collaborative tone, and plan a collaborative meeting with the district.
Sometimes the collaborative meeting is part of an IEP meeting, a 504, or an Evaluation Team
Report meeting. Often, it is a separate meeting to plan for the special education process.

The whole process goes something like this:

  1. Initial Meeting (face to face) – parents share their story while the advocate and attorney actively listen. At this point, the attorney determines if the family needs advocacy support or legal action. If advocacy is chosen, then the following steps are followed:
    1. Family Exercise (at home) – family creates a non- emotional timeline in outline form
    2. Guided Meeting (phone conference) – the advocate validates the family’s concerns, clarifies the educational process and helps the family edit their story, which elevates confidence and promotes clarity.
    3. Collaborative Meeting (at school) – the advocate or the family retells the family story to the district or private school.

O’Neill, M.J. (2021). Advocating for students: The family story. In C. Dean (Ed.), Story Frames for teaching literacy: Enhancing student learning through the power of storytelling. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Posted in Blog, Children with Special Needs, Children with Special Needs, Special Education.