Papers, meetings, test results, vital information, forms and documents. The list and pile becomes overwhelming. If it isn’t now, just wait. Children with disabilities have more information gathered about them than most other creatures on the planet. And it’s up to you to keep track of it all.

Besides organizing information about your child, how about organizing yourself?
The additional time you spend attending to your child means less time for typical home and self management. Could you be better organized? (We all could.)

Why bother?
1. You are your child’s #1 advocate. You know better than anyone else what works for your child. The more you can document the more weight your words will have with professionals (who often believe that they “know best”).
2. Your health and well being are vital to the program. The more efficiently you can manage your time and activities the less stress you will feel and the better care you will give to all who depend on it.

I don’t want to minimize what is involved in being organized. It is a major undertaking. But if you develop systems that work for you, believe me, you will be very thankful many times over.

INFORMATION SYSTEMS
You have tons of information about your child. It is either on paper or electronic. Either way requires a system of organization.

First, know what information is essential. Click the HELP ME icon below called GET INFORMATION. Once you have the information, you need a system to keep track of it.

Paper organization

1. Any system you design must:
• Be easy to use: you can find what you need when you look for it
• Be portable: from doctor to school to social worker to insurance agent, etc.

2. 3 Systems options to organize everything:
• Chronological order
• Every item is inserted in the order in which it is received
• Advantage: Reading the information this way gives you the clearest overall picture
• Disadvantage: Finding an individual piece of information about a particular subject may be another challenge

• Subject by subject
• You select specific subjects that are pertinent to your child and make a Subject file
• Subject files are then organized chronologically with the most recent entry on top
• You may color code files; eg. HEALTH tab in blue and LAB TESTS in yellow; COMMUNICATIONS in yellow and within this subject PEDIATRICIAN, DENTIST, SPECIALIST each in green; some kind of color scheme that appeals to you
• Advantage: you can go directly to the topic you need without sorting through a history of information
• Disadvantage: you can wind up with literally dozens of Subjects

• Provider by provider
• Eg., DOCTORS, THERAPISTS, SCHOOLS, etc.
• Each provider color coded; you can have Subjects within each provider color coded also
• Entries are chronological with most recent on top

3. You need a physical location for your information. Options include;
• Accordion files
• Ring binders
• Colored manila folders with tabs

Remember: portability. You don’t want to be carrying a half-dozen (or more) file containers to an IEP meeting.

Tip: Put each document into a plastic slip cover which then goes into any one of the three options above. Before a meeting select from your files the documents you need and then put them into a ring binder. In the plastic slip covers in the binder your documents are organized how you want them, secure, and portable.

4. Another layer of organization is to scan documents and file them in your computer. This becomes a backup to your paper file system. You can use a cloud storage server like DROPBOX (www.dropbox.com) which enables you to access your documents with a smartphone or a PC wherever you are.

Electronic organization

1. There are many apps designed to organize just about every aspect of your life: personal notes, health, expenses, appointments, etc. Different apps for different devices. Google “organizing personal information on a smartphone” and you will find 33,900,000 results. Something for everyone.

2. Evernote.com is a free, simple way to create notebooks which will contain your documents. You can photo documents with your smartphone and store them in the appropriate evernote notebook. You can also write your own notes and store them with whatever you file. Use of the program requires minimal instruction.

ORGANIZING YOU
Personal management systems can be very sophisticated and can have significant impact on your efficiency. Just using the following basic organizing systems will make a huge difference, if you use them.

1. USE A CALENDAR.
• paper or electronic
• Put it somewhere that you will see it often.
• Refer to it daily, preferably in the morning.
• If you use an electronic calendar set alerts to remember TO DOs and to give you ample time to meet deadlines

2. USE A PLANNER
• Paper or electronic; it must be portable
• Keep your planner and your calendar synchronized
• Map out what needs doing and how you will go about it

3. USE A SMARTPHONE
• Set up a personal information system (PIS) connected to the internet
• Synchronize your calendar and planner to your PIS

4. MAKE LISTS
• Either with pencil and paper or electronically (use www.evernote.com)
• Don’t depend on your memory; write it down
• To Do lists
Daily
• Limit the items to 5 or 6 per day
• Identify must do items (and then do those items for sure)
• State a time frame in your day when the item should be done
• Fix a time to make up your list; either night before or first thing in the morning
Weekly
• Fix a time to “start” your week; make the list before that time
• From this list make your Daily list
Monthly
• More general tasks which may not have a specific date to be done
• Note important dates to remember: birthdays, events, etc.
• Make Weekly list from here

8. Make several copies of a phone list of vital numbers and email addresses. Place a copy by each phone in the house, on the fridge, in the car, and at work. Make hot buttons on your phone of “first call” numbers.

GET ORGANIZED. It takes time and effort to set it up, and more time and effort to keep it up to date. But do it. In the long run you will be a happier, less stressed advocate.

If you would like assistance to GET ORGANIZED contact me. I will help you.

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