Record keeping advice

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Shari, Oct 25, 2010.

  1. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Any great ideas on how to keep track of all this junk going to and from school?

    My problem is that I get a heck of a lot of info via email from the sped teacher. She emails me almost every day with an update about the day, and if there's been an incident, her email often gives me more info than the behavior sheets I get.

    They keep daily behavior charts, and I am supposed to get a copy of those at least once a month. I am also supposed to get a copy of any data sheets or referrals once a month. And if there is an incident, I am supposed to get those daily.

    Since school has started, I had to request these sheets, but have discovered that they had been altered, so its obviously important to keep the originals I get on the day of the incident (which I was doing). BUt also, those emails fill in a lot of blanks. Thing is, tho, I want to be able to reference the info they know I have without giving up the sped teacher. I dont' think the admin would like her being open with me.

    My only thought is to print the emails, and make a duplicate of the charts and data sheets. Keep one binder just for what they give me, and another for a chronological record of communication...organize the charts and data sheets with the emails from the same dates re: what went on.

    Any other/better ideas? This seems like a lot of duplicate effort, but I gotta relay this info to a lot of people.
  2. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have two large three ring binders. One binder I keep information I refer to on a regular basis - dividers for communication to/from school (emails printed out), a divider for interims and report cards, divider for BIP/FBA, divider for current IEP, and finally one divider on any current info whether it be research I've done on technology aids, news that I believe might be helpful to pass on at meetings, etc. That binder goes with me to IEP meetings.

    The other binder contains all his past IEPs, his testing results, etc. Information I want to keep, but not required to travel with me every time I have a meeting at school.

    Since you are talking much more paperwork, you might want to invest in one of those plastic file boxes with the handle on the top. I wouldn't do a bunch of duplicating. I would probably have a section for his testing, his IEP, his FBA/BIP, incident logs, and communications. Now, if you get a communication from the principal where there has also been an incident log and a additional communication from the Special Education teacher, staple all three together and keep it with the logs stuff in date order newest to oldest. That way all the incident logs are together. Any direct issue they would address at a meeting would probably direct result from an incident - if you pulled the incident log for that day, you would have all supporting paperwork together and not have to dig anywhere else. Makes you look much more efficient.

    If you are going to a meeting where you believe an incident might be discussed, take the whole dang box. Nothing like showing them you are an expert record keeper - a tad intimidating as well! I know every new team member that sees my paperwork automatically assumes I know what I'm doing!!!!! I'm big on keeping everything together in one place. If you are in a hurry, just grab the box and go. Every Sunday afternoon, sit down and do your filing.....

    That's my two cents! I've just recently shredded communication information from grade school for difficult child and he's in 9th grade now! The only thing I never toss is old IEPs, BIPs, FBAs, and testing.

  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I keep a diary, a sort of running sheet. If you took all your recent posts, Shari, and cleaned them up (removing duplications etc) then you would have something similar to my diary. But then you cross-reference where you got the info. So if you found out about it from an email from SpEd, you reference after that entry, using a distinctive bracket, and include the date, title of email and sender. I also often use a specific but unusual character (perhaps four question marks, or four hash symbols) so I can search for these if I want to find which emails to print to back up those pages of my notes.

    Keep it all electronically. We even scanned all the reports so we have electronic copies. Anyone wanting a report - we print it, we no longer take our originals and photocopy them. You know what happens - you go to the school with your bucketloads of papers, the school says, "Let me copy those reports for you," and generally it is your only copy of a vital report that gets forgotten and left on the copier bed.

    Bucketloads of papers are not welcomed. If you're going to a meeting, nobody will have time to read reams of paper. Instead, they lean back in their chairs and say, "Give me the summary. Talk to me." If they take the papers and say, "Ill read it later, in my office," you can be almost certain they won't. There's just too much.

    What works from here - you take your diary. Print only the relevant pages. IF they ask for corroboration, you then print out just the referenced emails they request.

    How to file it - we have separate folders for email from various sources. We can either manually put the emails there, or we can have them filtered. Whatever works best for you. You can even convert them to text and file them elsewhere, but frankly, keeping the email copy is better if it shows you haven't had the chance to modify the test from the school. Your diary cross reference can even indicate which folder on your computer it can be found; although if you're good with your search option, you should be able to find it easily form the title.

    I found, where possible, it worked best to summarise issues down to one page. Sometimes a Dept of Ed staffer would come back to me and ask for the evidence backing what I said, but it was always then easy for me to find it.

    So in summary - text file reading like a diary, with dates and events described. Staff comments included (lifted form emails) cross-referenced in {} brackets with &&&& symbols so I could search for "&&&&" using FIND, so I could print out the relevant emails IF asked for them. Then keep EVERYTHING, but filed to keep the file size down (ie put the junk mail elsewhere).

    I keep ALL my emails, apart from spam of course. Even some spam, in special cases. I have emails that go back to the very first internet connection we ever had. We do archive them after a decade or so.

    Because one day I just might write that book, and I will need to refer back a LOOOOONG way!

  4. slsh

    slsh member since 1999

    Ditto Sharon. All that information is useful and important to have, but it does you no good if it's not in a format that you can easily access.

    When I was in the midst of challenging times with- the district and one (or both) of my sped kids, I kept everything in binders, separated by section (daily reports, incident reports, IEPs, BIPs, evaluations, etc., as well as letters back and forth with- the sped dir from Hades). I also made it a habit to carry with me the latest copy of full IDEA regs as well as state regs (prominently labeled on the outside of the binder, LOL - never underestimate what will intimidate the school district). I used those binders to verify whatever fertilizer the school district was trying to pass off to me as "law". I *also* got into the habit of checking OSEP's letters of understanding (or clarification or whatever it is) on their web site - once had an IEP mtg on Boo where school district was trying to refuse to send aug. com. device home. I was simply delighted to pull out a recent OSEP letter stating, basically, that aug. com. devices should be sent home with- students in Boo's situation. At the very height of a battle for LRE for Boo, I actually not only had the binders but a big portable filing box, about 2 x 1.5 feet, huge thing, filled with- all kinds of info and documentation. That was a very fun year (not) LOL.

    As things mellowed, I shelved the binders and the box. It wasn't necessary anymore.

    I actually shredded all of thank you's IEPs and reports last summer. I'll probably shred Boo's next summer. Some folks recommend keeping them indefinitely, but I made the conscious decision to just let it all go. Boo's disability speaks for itself. thank you... well, he's doing his thing and all that paperwork isn't going to help him on his path. I didn't want it to potentially fall into his hands should I keel over unexpectedly. He didn't need to see the details of his struggles in writing. But that's just my opinion and I don't believe it's the norm.
  5. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    We got so overwhelmed by paper we scanned it all in. Then, while I was bored one day (previous job was B.O.R.I.N.G), I separated the files out and named them according to whatever we needed.

    Then, as necessary we would email stuff out. The emails got saved in PDF format too.

    But this is court stuff... Might not be the same for you.

    ...I also had a LOT of time on my hands.
  6. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Part of my problem is that a LOT of info is coming from the sped teacher via daily emails, and I suspect if the school knew what she was telling me in those emails, she'd shut me I don't want that info in the same place as what I might pull out during a meeting with the school. But for meetings with the advocates, etc, I need those emails with the incident reports because the emails fill in a lot of gaps. The district doesn't need to know how I know what I know.

    The advocates and attorney do.

    Marg, I do print a lot of my posts from here! Sometimes, that's part of the reason I post things - to log it til I can get it documented elsewhere!

    Thanks for all the suggestions. I am thinking parts of several of them will serve my purpose.

    As always, THANK YOU!
  7. Farmwife

    Farmwife Member

    Considering your reasons for having 2 files I think your plan is the smartest and most coherent. I think being organized and it being a major hassle just goes with the territory. No easy systems as far as I have seen.

    My only suggestion is possibly some dividers and a table of contents. I usually run into the page flipping game and although I almost have it memorized I tend to get flustered in a meeting and take forever to find a critical detail.

    I should have known I wasn't the only parent with a special binder. *sigh* Nice to know I am in good company.
  8. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    LOL I have like 5 3" binders.

    I just keep getting new ones as we outgrow the last one.

    Marg's idea is about the only way I see that I don't have to duplicate info, but then I als ohave to find the time to summarize and make references...perhapst he copier and hole punch would be less time consuming. But I think that would be great to add to emails to my mom and the advocates, etc, as I type those up...

    And I use the scanner at work every chance I get! I love that thing!
  9. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Gmail makes it easy to have emails from certain people or with certain subject matter to go to a specific folder. You also get a ton of web storage space. I suppose if you run out, you could just open another email account because gmail actually archives their emails forever. Or you could get an external hard drive to save them to but I think I would rather get the new email account because then they would be saved on the web.
  10. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    I don't print them, I copy them to a text file and keep it, backed up on our main computer.

    As for what SpEd reveals - if it's not for public consumption, then cross-reference it to your computer using your own code that doesn't reveal your sources.

    For a lot of difficult child 3's mainstream schooling, I had my 'spies' in the form of kids from church. They would talk to either me, or my daughters who they saw at dance class (the dance school used the school hall in the evenings). After learning my lesson the hard way, when I quoted a friend of difficult child 3's who had witnessed a gang beating difficult child 3 up in the playground (only to have the class teacher 'out' the source to the bullies and then refuse to believe him or difficult child 3) I learned to not divulge my sources. I found it worked better to be able to say, "I know this happens." It did mean that if/when the school denied it, I could do nothing because it became "he said, she said", but it did mean they lifted their game and started worrying that I had eyes in the back of my head. They never did work out where I was getting my info from.

    I've kept all reports etc. including the ones I felt were way out of line. I feel the kids know themselves and also are more likely to follow how they feel inside, than follow an ancient, yellowed assessment from someone who didn't necessarily get it right. However, even the wrong stuff can be useful in what it tells years later. For example, an early report on difficult child 3 says that he will never be able to attend a normal school and never be able to live independently; will always need a high level of support. etc. Pessimistic. But I have no problem with difficult child 3 seeing it, even now, because he knows he has surpassed its expectations.

    When difficult child 3 was in Grade 4, a kid called him (among other names) a "retard". difficult child 3 didn't know what it meant but did work out from the way the word was delivered, that it was meant to be an insult. So when he wanted to say something bad back to that kid, he called HIM a retard. I got a note home from the teacher telling me I needed to teach difficult child 3 some manners, teach him that calling kids names like that was not the way to win friends. I sent a somewhat angry note back, that the only place difficult child 3 had learned such words, as she well knew, was in her classroom under her supervision and if difficult child 3 was using bad words at kids, to look to those kids as the ones who had almost certainly used them first, to difficult child 3. (her own son was one of those kids!)

    But the most important thing I did, that helped difficult child 3 cope - I told him what the word meant. I also told him why that word did not apply to anybody and especially not to him. I then explained (carefully, because it was a complicated concept for an autistic kid) that the person who uses words like that to wound someone, is actually revealing his own secret fears about himself. In other words, the kid who calls another "stupid" is himself secretly afraid he's not as smart as others. So insults actually reveal that the person trying to wound with words is really the one who fears he most deserves his own label.

    So being called 'retard" was actually an indication that the kid was jealous of difficult child 3's abilities and feeling very insecure by contrast.

    This worked. difficult child 3 was never upset by that insult again.

    Reports scanned onto the computer can be hidden deep, if necessary. or put into a password-locked file. But I am never in favour of destroying evidence. Never. That's why I keep everything. It gives me a sense of security, that whatever comes up, however unexpected, I am prepared for as best as possible. Call me an electronic hoarder...

  11. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    husband gave me a laptop last year for Christmas to use to keep Wee's stuff on. I have a good chunk of it converted, but not enough. That's what I need to do....just spend a weekend in the office scanning everything and getting it on cd and that computer. It would be easy to keep up with it going forward....its just going to be a HUGE undertaking to get to that point.

    I think I still need the paper copies of the behavior and data sheets, but that could be secondary.

    Yup. I just need a free weekend.

    Now where to find one of those.
  12. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I want one too!!!

    Now that I have changed jobs (same employer, different building), I'm a tad busier! Plus, no acrobat pro, and not really enough time.

    If you find that extra week/weekend? Let me know where, I'll go look too!
  13. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Be sure to look in the bottom of the vodka bottle. Gcvmom clued me in to that hiding place. Pretty sure you can't cram a productive hidden weekend in there, but you never know.
  14. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    Oh, yuck!!!

    How about something more palatable?! Vodka tastes like varnish smells.
  15. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    She found her patience hiding there last night.... I dunno....just sayin'.
  16. Jules71

    Jules71 Warrior Mom since 2007

    When I have more time I am definitely going to have to read thru this thread more thoroughly. I have a problem keeping all of this stuff straight too. I have a large 3 ring binder with dividers that I keep evaluations, IEPs, etc - but my problem is the emails back and forth. I have tried making different spreadsheets to show the communication that goes on, another one for requests I have made and if/when they get implemented, etc. There is just such a LARGE volume I don't know how best to organize it so I can find something immediately. Good luck and let us know what works best.