Sunday, February 27, 2011

Getting Organized

Regardless if you have just had your child evaluated for special education services or you are about to attend your 8th IEP meeting, being organized it critical in obtaining services for your child.  The issues and tasks that you have to deal with and the multitudes of data you will gather over a period of time is, quite frankly, overwhelming.  If you have not done so by the time you are securing services for your child, obtain a copy of your child's cumulative file from the school office assistant.  You are entitled to see this file any number of times, and you should annually review this file and obtain copies of materials you did not see in times you reviewed the file previously. This is often the place to start when organizing information.  The purpose of organizing materials related to your child is to keep all information in a central location and very user-friendly.  It will help you be most efficient in planning, attending, and following up with meeting details.

Many parents find a 3-ring binder a sufficient resource for organization of materials.  Clearly label the sections of the binder.  Labels may look different depending on your child's needs.  An accordion-style file may also be an efficient choice.  Include in this central place all important IEP documents.  An important document is anything that contains substantive information about your child or procedural information concerning how and when things happen in the IEP process (The Complete IEP Guide, Siegel, 2009).

Some of the most important documents include the following:
  • evaluations
  • notes from teachers or other service providers
  • communications from the school about your child
  • past IEPs
  • any notes you have kept on particular observations
  • any forms or materials you have completed for the school
  • outside agency information (i.e. medical doctor notes, psychologist notes)
  • current IEP
  • a blank IEP form from your child's school
  • parent rights handbook
  • a list of contact information of resources for support and assistance inside and outside the district
As your child progresses through school, a single binder will not be enough for storage of cumulative information.  Consider a file drawer for materials over the years.  The binder should be reserved for foundational information (i.e. parent rights materials or current evaluation items).  This is the information you will need readily available. 
An organizational method is critical for keeping track of the multitude of documents associated with having a special needs child.  Not having one is likely to result in your child receiving less than adequate services.

Information such as this can be obtained in the book referenced above:  The Complete IEP Guide, by Attorney Lawrence M. Siegel.  This is a wonderful reference tool with practical advice and sample forms that you can use as you need.

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