Archives for posts with tag: special needs students

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

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1. Set up a routine for your students
All students but especially those with special needs have their learning experience enhanced by a routine that gives them confidence. It gives a structure and minimizes discipline problems for children of different learning abilties.

2. Have your students involved in classroom decoration
This is a fun way to get everyone involved in their learning environment, and can be split up in several arts, crafts and writing activities. A classroom is never too much decorated.

Boy with Developmental Disability

3. Be patient
You will not master special education in a day. Be patient with yourself, and with your students. Each year, things will get better over time as you know them better and find what works for you all.

4. Be organized
You will soon discover that as soon as you think you are done with paperwork, there is more to do. Keep up with it in a timely manner or you will be fast buried unto it.

5. Be dynamic
You will spend time looking for your path and then suddenly, something will change. A new student may be added to your classroom, there may be changes in the school staff, or your students start to behave differently. Do not take any of this personally and move on to find the next best solution!

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6. Adapt testing to your students
Not all children need to be tested the same way. Unlike mainstream classrooms, yours is special because you have the opportunity to make these students feel bright. For instance, the test can be in writing for some, in speaking for others.

7. Communicate with parents
They will love getting news from the classroom, but they will also provide you with amazingly helpful information on your students. They’ve probably figured out a few things on their child before you and what they haven’t figured out, you can share with them. Communication is the key.

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8. Do your research before buying supplies
Some school supplies out there are not truly adapted to special needs kids. Check that they are safe, easy to use and frustration free before making your purchase.

9. Find someone you can speak to
They don’t have to be in your field. It can be a friend, your spouse or whoever you are comfortable with! It’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes on your everyday problems or even just be able to vent.

10. Talk with other special ed teachers
They will always have interesting tips that worked in their classroom. It can be overwhelming if you try to make them all happen at once, but do take pieces of advice here and there based on your own classroom style.

11. Be proud of what you do
Because, you can! Remember those days when becoming a special ed teacher was just an idea and see all you have done. You do one of the most beautiful jobs in the world. Believe us, many parents out there are jealous of the time you spend with their little ones. They would take your seat, if only they could.

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12. Finally, relax!
You ARE a superhero (all teachers are). But even superheroes take breaks. Remind yourself that not everything can be perfect and as long as you have the right attitude, it will all work out.

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