Thursday, February 5, 2009

Paperwork, Paperwork, and more Paperwork

As a parent of an autistic child, I have a lot of paper. I have stacks and stacks of reports, IEPs, evaluations, and notes. Keeping track of these papers is an organizational challenge, and one that many people face in one form or another. Be it medical issues, educational issues, or even work files, it can be difficult to know how to create an accessible, but compact system. This is what works for me.

For a while my stacks and stacks of paper were just that: stacks. Then I found a place to put them. I stored them in one of those ottomans that open up and have storage inside. I called it my Autism Ottoman.

Then I realized that not only do I need to have all the information, I need to have it somewhere that I can access it easily. This is the solution that I have come up with:

What you see here is two and a half years worth of records, research, and paperwork. This has not only made it easy for me to reference things that I need to find, but is also helpful at IEP meetings when I need to find information from a specific evaluation and find it fast in order to make a point.

I have four folders (and about a zillion notebook dividers): One folder holds all reports, evaluations, and IEPs. This is my most important folder, and the one I take with me to all my meetings. Everything is chronological, and each item gets its own labeled divider so I can find it quickly. With this folder in hand, I can find a document to support everything I want to say at an IEP meeting.

Another folder holds information from private therapies. I keep my insurance information in this folder, as well as invoices and receipts from Jack's therapy sessions. Basically anyone I pay to work with me concerning Jack gets a spot in this folder.

The third folder holds research on general autism information, from kinds of therapies and treatments to lists of books I want to read. I also keep notes about people I meet, as well as recommendations that those people give me.

The last folder and the notebook are my communications notebooks. In them, I keep copies of all the communication I have with the school about Jack. I make copies of each page of the communication notebook that comes home each day, as well as emails his teachers and the principal send to me. Whenever someone calls about Jack, I get out my notebook and write down who called, when they called, and I take notes on the conversation.

It is so important to keep your own copies of these records. And it is so important to keep them organized. Otherwise it can be close to impossible to find something when you need it. Initially it will take some time to organize it, and you do have to make sure to occasionally maintain the folders, but I think it saves a lot of time and stress in the long run.


Sue @ My Party of 6 said...

You are so organized, it's scary! (In a good way.) I love the autism ottoman. We have the Turner Syndrome file box! I have a binder for dr. reports, but the rest is just thrown in there. Now I know what I need to do!

*m* said...

I have mostly similar binders but wish I'd thought of doing a communication notebook like you describe. Great idea.

BetteJo said...

So-o-o... do the binders and folders go inside the autism ottoman or was the ottoman abandoned (that would be sad) when you organized everything this way?

Ange said...

be prepared to STill look unorganized when you flip through everything in a panic in a meeting and can't find that one thing.... I have 2 4 inch binders for each boy, 1 binder for education records (including official communication) and another binder for home/private service/medical records. Bubba is exploding out of his binders at 9.... ugh. I wish I had it all scanned electronically so I could search it...but not there yet... And then I have my binder for healthcare insurance, my binder for reimbursement for respite, my binder for research, my binder for disability rights research, my binder of special ed law, my binder for.... I need a catalog system I think!

Rev. Hermitica said...

Very impressive. That's the kind of organized I can only dream about!

I found your blog yesterday after, strangely enough, googling about expiration dates on dry pasta (led me to one of your pantry cleanout posts). You have inspired me to start tackling the clutter in my own house! First, though, I need to take the 3 huge boxes of stuff waiting for Freecycle that I've already set aside, and actually POST them. They've just been sitting in my kitchen for months.