Just last week I was scheduled to head to a meeting for my special needs daughter Elizabeth.  You see we are planning the next step in Elizabeth’s journey as she is graduating from high school this year.  So as I prepare to head off the meeting, I get together the necessary paperwork: the IEP (Individualized Education Plan), the latest ETR (Evaluation Team Report) , various reports, anecdotal notes, report cards and probably a few other things.  But you get the idea.

After I get it all together,  I put them into a new accordion file that I purchased for the start of her life after high school.  I thought it would be great to separate the before from the after.

And this got me thinking about the amount of paperwork, notes, and records that become part of your life when your child has special needs.  I happen to be a pretty organized person due in part to my love of office supplies.  I used to be the happy “back to school” child.  You know the one, the one who happily picks out their folder colors and binders. Pretty much the one my young son would love to yell at in the aisle at Target.

Whatever got me to this level of organization, I know I would be lost without it. I may not be able to find a paper this second but I can tell you where it is and I will find it….just give me a few minutes.

I thought maybe I would share how I keep track of the always growing amount of papers for Elizabeth.  Please know, I am sharing what works for me.

1. ONE YEAR AT A TIME

It is very important to keep all information from each school year together.  Such as daily reports, report cards, communication notes that you have exchanged with anyone at the school.  Also, any therapy reports from the school or private therapy.  I keep everything in one folder for one school year.  This way anything that happened in second grade is right there…together.  I tried separating things out based on school related items versus private therapy but that just got too confusing and made two folders for each year.

2. PUT THE YEARS TOGETHER

After the school year is done, I take the folder and put it into a big, waterproof bin with a secure lid.  Two floods in the basement have taught me the value of waterproof!  Once they are labeled, then finding anything the school may need at a later time is really easy and if you forget to put something away, it is easy to locate where it goes as it is all based on the school year.

3. KEEP IEP SEPARATE

I know I said all things in the school folder, but the IEP is such a fluid and working document that I find myself flipping through old ones to read and see how much the goals have been changed or asking myself why then haven’t been.  

I have every IEP in one VERY big folder.  Along with any ETR reports.  

How nice to know all that information is in one place.  Simply bring the folder to any IEP meetings.  Besides its weight, it is pretty nice to have it all right there.

4. USE A TICKLE FILE APPROACH

Some people use their schedules and calendars on their phones to organize their lives. I do a little of that but because  I am a visual person,  I go old school and use a calendar,  the kind with 12 months of pictures, flowers or cats.

I put it on my desk so that the pictures are tucked under and I see only the months.  Then I write down reminders for myself of things for Elizabeth.  Such as “call for volunteering in May” I will slide that in the calendar in the month of April and when I flip to April, I will see it.  

I do this a lot for all my children but especially for Elizabeth because by using it like this she can help me to write the cards, file them and we can talk about the schedule before it really starts.

5. DO NOT BE OVERWHELMED

Even as I read this, I can see how it may seem like a lot of work, but it really is not.  What I mean is think of how many things you have done and worked on for your child that have simply become part of your life.  I think so much of it just becomes habit.  

The same as a sensory diet can become simply part of your day to life so will keeping all the records in order.

As you know, you never thought you would face the challenges of a child with special needs but you did.  You never thought you would rejoice over the little successes but you do.  So figuring out how to keep track of life and still enjoy the good things is just one more thing you can do.

I wish you all a blessed week.

Michele

How many times a day do you look at your watch or the clock on your phone?  If you are like me, then you probably do it many times.

We have the concept of time.

We understand that we must manage time to function well in life

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For example: We know how long it takes to get somewhere, how long it takes to get ready and we can figure out, based on the above, how soon we need to leave to arrive at an appointment on time.

But so many of our special needs children do not grasp the

They do not fully understand a half hour versus 45 minutes.

Or that you need to do something for 25 minutes then get ready to leave.

I know Elizabeth and I have had many talks about time.  But for those who have the same disorders that she does, Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder, time is simply not grasped or fully understood.  By this I mean, Elizabeth knows how to manage a schedule, she knows what she is doing each day.  She even remembers dates and events for me, which trust me, makes her smile because I “lost my focus” as she says.  But if I ask her how long she was volunteering, I may receive the answer of “about 20 minutes”…and she was there for 2 hours.

So, recognizing the needs of our special needs children is critical.  Putting supports into place to help them is critical. Teaching and reinforcing concepts of time is critical.

But how to do this?   

I started with a timer.  I started by telling Elizabeth what we were doing and for how long. I started by telling her what we would do next once the timer went off.  And we used the timer for managing time on the T.V., time until we had dinner, time that we would do homework.  

I love the visual timer because it spoke for me, it was doing its job instead of my voice being used. And if anyone was displeased, they could blame it on the inanimate time, not mom( insert smiley face here).

I have to say for those who need this kind of help, the timer I would recommend to try is the Time Timer

Back in the day, we used a kitchen timer.  You set it.  And it went off…loudly.  And then we did what was next on the schedule. Once your heart rate went back down to normal that is.  This time timer does not do that, it has a nice soft sound that signals time is up.  Which is both comforting and less anxiety producing than mine was.

Also, as opposed to the timer I used that had numbers only, this one has a red face that marks the time.  As the time ticks down, the red goes away.  So that our children know, if there is no red left, time is up.  

What a great visual schedule!   You can teach them to look at the clock for the numbers and how much red is left.

I always talk about teaching.  Because as parents and caregivers to these special needs children, you want to help them know and understand as much as they can about life and the world.  Taking the time to teach about schedules, taking the time to make the visual schedule (be it pictures or words) and taking the time to talk about the schedule after the day is done, will so help to reinforce concepts that prove hard to grasp.

This time timer will be a major sensory tool in their success to working with the concept of time.

Trust me, the time will become a very close friend of yours.  I am looking at the kitchen timer now and smiling because I can remember the words of Elizabeth “ Man, the timer went off, come on Michael, time to brush our teeth for school.”   

Yup, she may have not liked the time…but it worked.

I wish you all a good week.

Please let me know if you have any success stories you wish to share.

Michele

 

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