IEP’s: Staying Organized
When my son was first referred to the early intervention program in our area, I read many books and web sites about special needs children. One of the best suggestions I read was to get all of the paperwork organized. At first there wasn’t too much of it. We had an IFSP (individualized family service plan) which is basically an IEP for children under the age of 3. We also had developmental, speech and OT assessments. I didn’t really know what to do with them at first so I just put them all in a file folder. As there were more meets, more diagnoses and more sheets of paper, that one little file folder didn’t suffice when I needed to find a specific report or paper.
IEP Organization Suggestions
1. Materials needed: A large 3 ring binder, tabbed dividers, portable hole punch, pencil holder, pencils, pens, erasers and paper. Figure out how many dividers you need and then make sure you have about 5 extras. You need the extras for other agencies, papers or anything else that comes up. The main dividers could be: current IEP, past IEPs, IFSP (if it is applicable), current reports, past reports, advocacy, medication, meeting notes, school information, other therapies or other pertinent information regarding your son or daughter. Also, include a master list of all agencies, contact people and phone numbers. Keep the pencil pocket full of any materials that might be needed at an IEP meeting. Many parents use this binder at the main place where they keep ALL information include info about doctor’s visits, notes about progress, etc.
Papers should be hole punched, put behind each tab and kept up to date. If you have one of those binders with a clear plastic cover, you could put pictures of your child, or scrapbook a nice collage for the front of it.
I’ve heard of some parents, for simplicity’s sake, that set up a new binder with each new IEP. Then they simply put the old binders on a book shelf with dates written on the spine.
- Materials Needed: A portable file organizer, file folders, pencils, pens, eraser, paper. I am one of those people that can’t stand the maintenance involved in keeping a binder up to date. If I had a binder, I would pile all of the papers in the front pocket and never update it. I purchased a portable file system instead. With this system I set up a bunch of folders in the same way as the binder tabs and I simply put the bundle of papers in the file folder. If I need to move papers from one file to the other, I can make a new folder or move them to a new folder.
I have the pens, pencils and other note taking supplies in the front pocket so that I don’t have to hunt those things down on the day of the meeting. They’re already in my IEP kit. Plus, I have all paperwork and can refer to any piece of paper in my son’s educational history. (Although, I’m going to need to set up a filing system for older paperwork since the current portable file organizer is busting out at the seams!)
- Materials Needed: Filing cabinet and file folders. You can always set up a filing cabinet drawer with all past IEPs organized by date. When you go to the next IEP meeting you can get the folder matching the IEP that you’ll be discussing with the team. The only drawback with this idea is that you won’t have any prior IEPs and you’ll have to hunt for note taking materials on the day of the IEP.
- Materials Needed: scanner, computer disk space. If you’re short on space, scanning old IEPs is always an option. DO NOT, let me repeat, DO NOT SHRED THE ORIGINAL COPY OF THE CURRENT IEP. Save the original of the CURRENT IEP. Once a new IEP has been written it is perfectly ok to shred the old copy. You might even consider waiting 2 years before you shred any old IEPs. Sometimes the IEPs have handwritten notes or changes. If you ever go to a fair hearing (thankfully, most of us never will), you’ll want to have the IEP that has been corrected in ink. Keep originals of current educational, speech, OT, behavioral or any other kinds of reports imaginable. Older reports can be scanned, saved and shredded. Also keep a list of all agencies, phone numbers and contact people associated with your child’s care saved in the same file.
Materials Needed: My IEP Toolkit (click here for link to the website: http://organized4kids.com/my-iep-toolkit/). These incredible dividers can be added to any binder. The dividers give instructions on what to keep behind each tab. Also, there are instructions included in the kit that explain how to set up the binder. It is a fantastic resource. If you lose a page, they have the option to purchase only one or two replacement pages. This is a great option if you’re new to IEP organization and need a few tips on how to organize it all. Check the web site for the current cost.
I spoke with a friend who had another great suggestion. He suggested using either a pdf scanning app or a a photo app then convert the files into pdfs with a conversion app. After you have a pdf (a more universal file that takes up less space than a jpg photo file) you could save it to your favorite “cloud” document organization program (so that the file is available on your computer, not just your iPhone). Sounds complex but it really isn’t. It’s just a matter of taking a photo using a pdf conversion app (like the one below). Then saving to your favorite cloud based program that is installed on your computer, such as Dropbox.
Find an option that works for you and your organizational style. Keeping IEP paperwork organized is important and will save you time in the long run.