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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Organizing for Autism Series {Part 1}: Perfectly Organized Paperwork

Life with autism can become overwhelming. But if you know me, you know I believe that anything in life can be made better with good organization. That's why I am excited to share with you a new series: Organizing for Autism. Organizing won't solve everything, but can definitely make life run more smoothly and reduce stress. And what autism family couldn't use less stress and more peace?

Today we are kicking off the series by tackling something every autism parent knows all too well: the paperwork avalanche. From IEP forms to evaluations to grant applications, you can quickly find yourself drowning in a sea of paper. Not only is the mess overwhelming, but it becomes impossible to find important documents when you need them.

If you take the time to set it up, a well-thought-out paperwork organization system can save you hours of frustration down the road. There are plenty of different ways to go about corralling mountains of paperwork; my favorite method is using a series of binders. When shopping for binders, always get a 1/2 inch bigger size than you think you need...because you know how papers have a way of multiplying while you sleep!

IEP Binder:

Different special education experts have different recommendations on setting up your IEP binder - the Wrightslaw books say to put the oldest papers in front and work back. Personally, I do it the opposite way, with the newest paperwork on top, since it's what I am most likely to reference. I use a new binder for each school year, otherwise the book would be too heavy to lug to IEP meetings.

Speaking of IEP meetings, when you show up with a perfectly organized binder, it shows the team that you are serious and prepared. Impressions matter.

These are our yearly IEP binder categories:

  • Finished IEP and IEP Snapshot
  • Prior Written Notice and other forms
  • Behavior Intervention Plan
  • Parent Notes (including the Student Profile we create about our son every year)
  • IEP Progress Notes
  • Report Cards and Standardized Test Results
  • Evaluations
  • Correspondence 
  • Transition - anything relating to the upcoming school year

Tip: Put a photo of your child on the front of the binder so his or her cute face is smiling out at the IEP team during meetings!

In a separate master IEP binder, I also keep information on:

  • Special Education Law (print outs of anything that might be relevant during a meeting)
  • SMART IEP Basics
  • School District Policy
  • Related Services
  • Lists of Accommodations
  • Curriculum

Binder About Your Child:

In this binder, keep all non-school papers that are specifically related to your son or daughter. Your particular categories will depend on your child's needs, of course, but these are some suggestions:

  • Speech Evaluations
  • Occupational Therapy Evaluations
  • Psychological Evaluations / Diagnostic Documentation
  • Developmental Therapy
  • Behavior
  • Medical Records
  • Social Skills Groups
  • Grant Applications
  • Respite Paperwork

    General Information Binder:

    This is the place to file general information about autism (or other health concerns). As a parent, the more you learn about your child's specific condition, the more effective you will become as their advocate. Our binder is about autism, and includes the following sections:

    • Asperger's / Autism general
    • Social Stories
    • Social Skills
    • Calming Techniques
    • Sensory Processing Disorder
    • Pragmatic Language
    • Auditory Processing
    • Autism School Issues
    • Special Education
    • Gifted / Twice-Exceptional Education
    • Guardianship
    • Apps for iPads
    • Other Therapies (ideas for the future, such as hippotherapy)
    • Local Resources (organizations like TEACCH and the Autism Society of NC)

    The information in this binder was gathered from many different sources: conferences and workshops, websites, books, etc. It's great to have one place to organize all the different handouts and print outs so I can refer back them quickly and easily.

    Do you have a favorite way of organizing your child's paperwork? Tell us about it in the comments.

    And check back for more in the Organizing for Autism series soon. Next up: Managing Schedules!

    (Note: this post contains associate links.)

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