Friday, August 26, 2011

The Importance of Documentation

Keeping a paper trail on a child with special needs is critical for several reasons.  A file can help produce documents that may show a particular reoccurring pattern or a weakness/strength in a specific academic area.  A file of documentation can also show communication efforts and exchanges between professionals and/or the home and school.  A file can help provide much needed information to support the services that are necessary to serve the child with special needs.  Not the least of the reasons to keep a file is because a single person cannot remember anything and advocating for a child with special needs can be an emotional process; thereby, the less the person advocating has to recall from memory the more effective the advocacy efforts can be.

Standard documents that should be collected and organized are as follows:
  • report cards
  • notes from teachers
  • notes from other specialists/professionals serving the child
  • all IEP or 504 plan forms/documents
  • personal notes taken regarding phone calls or meetings
  • medical records
  • standardized and/or district testing data
  • copies of correspondences personally written to the school
  • any communication from the school
  • reports from activities a child with special needs may have participated in during a summer break or such
While this is, no doubt, an exhaustive list, documents will most likely fall into a category listed above.  The critical thing to remember is that documentation is important and cannot be overlooked or left as the responsibility of someone else.

It is best to organize a file in place where papers can be easily retrieved.  An accordion file often is a preferred choice of parents.  I, personally, keep a binder on my daughter with her most current information.  I keep historical documents in a separate file as there are numerous documents.  Find a system that works well and stick with it.  There is little as frustrating as needing to locate a document quickly and being unable to do so.

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