Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How I Organize my Child’s Special Education file

After Buddy's initial meeting with First Steps, I had so much paperwork that I realized I needed to start getting it organized now. I had done special education advocacy in the past, so I know what might be important later (everything, if it goes to litigation) and what kinds of documents I would need. I also know how I wish clients had organized their child's file to make my life easier (and hopefully, save them some costs).

I am an office supply junkie, so I got some fancy file folders for this project. They are more expensive than the regular manila kind, but are heavy-duty and will hold very important documents. I wanted them to be attractive to encourage me to use them--and fancy folders are better for that. I bought a package of 6 folders, and when I got home, I labeled them:

  • Calendar/notices
  • Meeting Notes
  • Evaluations
  • Notice of rights/general information
  • IFSP (IEP for a child 3 or older)
  • Contacts
In the Calendar/Notices section, I put the initial "Welcome to First Steps" letter. I will use that folder for all notices (such as a meeting notice). I also have a small paper calendar I put in there to write down all appointments, contacts, visits, etc. THIS IS NOT MY REGULAR CALENDAR! This is a documentation calendar, where I am writing down only things that relate to Buddy's services and evaluations. This includes dates of service and how many minutes of service we got (according to me).

The Meeting Notes section is where I keep any notes I make of meetings, or any notes I receive from teachers regarding status and progress meetings.  I am not putting therapy notes in there, but will have them separate where I can access them easier.

The Evaluations section is just that: any formal or informal evaluation of Buddy goes into that section. These are VERY IMPORTANT. Meaning: if I did not keep everything else, this is one of the two things I would keep. 

The Notice of Rights section is where I am keeping all the handouts they give me that I don't bother looking at. Under IDEA, school administrators are required to give a lot of paper that explains the parents' rights, the program itself, why the sky is blue, and anything else related. Most of this I just skim, if I look at it at all. (If you are not familiar with special education law, however, I highly recommend you look at the notice of rights, and keep it in a safe place.) I wrote down the date I received each paper at the top right corner, and put it in the folder. I don't expect I will look at these again, but they're there if I need them.

The IFSP section is also self-explanatory: this is where I will keep my son's IFSP (or IEP for an older child). This is the second thing that is VERY IMPORTANT.

The Contacts section is for my information, my own address book. This is really the only thing I may regularly look up in the Special Education file once everything is up and running, and I should really keep this information elsewhere as well.

I do not have a folder for correspondence. Correspondence between parents and teachers can be extensive, especially for special education students. I will probably do most correspondence via e-mail, and will then store those on my computer. Much of the necessary correspondence for this file belongs in the calendar/notices section, and I will print out notices to put in that folder.

Is this how you created your child's special education file? What do you do differently? Do you have any other recommendations?

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