I am loving my children’s summer vacation: no avalanche of schoolwork and reminders sent home; no searching for that one paper needed for a stressful IEP meeting; no schedule-itis, checking the calendar with my morning coffee in hand. Obviously, I struggle with organization, and I shared this with a friend of mine, another more-seasoned parent of a special needs child. She suggested to me that I hole-punch all current documents and put them in a binder. It was great to have all of the papers in one place. Until I misplaced the binder. Problem was I used a narrow white binder that easily camouflaged in the plethora of mail and school papers that landed on top of it.
So this summer, I am assigning myself homework: get organized, the Wright way. In Organizing Your Child's Special Education File: Do It Right!, Pete Wright, Esq. provides a roadmap for every parent of a special needs child to navigating the sea of white papers.
Step 1: Date All Documents
Pete Wright suggests compiling all doctors, their contact info, and diagnoses in a single document. So I can check mark that step, making sure it is up-to-date.
Step 2: File All Documents in a Large Binder
The next step is to request your child’s records…from the above doctors and request your child’s educational records. Now that my son is moving from one elementary to school to another, it is a good time for me to get an up-to-date file from the school. An important tip that Wright offers is don’t read the documents because it will bog you down and you may lose organizing momentum. Use a pencil and lightly date all, in case the records need to be in original state one day.
The next step is to put all papers in a large binder, and organize them from oldest to most recent. This is Wright's “parent-tested system,” and he warns if you make this more complicated by sorted into different categories (evals, reports) you will not be able to find what you need during a meeting. I can attest to this. My narrow binder proved ineffectual when on-the-spot, I needed to access an eval that was over-organized.
Step 3: Read the Master File for the "Big Picture"
Now you can read it all, in chronological order. This gives you the Big Picture perspective that school staff may not have. Inserting relevant sample work into the binder is also a great tip, especially for those of us who "save-it-all, just in case." Wright then suggests we create a document list. This is your table of contents to your child's complete medical and educational history, allowing you to find what you need at a moment’s notice.
Now I am off to request all educational documents, and clear a shelf for new, bright colored extra large binders.
Image courtesy of Michal Marcol at FreeDigitalPhotos.net