If your child has problems in school, you should immediately begin to save information about your LD child’s school experience in an organized fashion. In order to help your child, it’s quite possible that you will deal with the educational, medical, insurance, and legal systems. All of these systems require organized information.
- School, doctors, and insurance system require structured records.
- Organizing information and prioritizing concerns help you take advantage of your time with teachers and other experts.
- Establishing goals with professionals helps keep them accountable.
- Gathering information in one place helps you track growth and gains that happen over longer periods of time.
For more information on how saved information is valuable, see How do I Apply for an IEP?
What Tools Work Best for Saving Information?
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Although our world is now full of apps and software, most parents report that, when they manage their child’s information, two favorite tools are still paper-based.
- A support binder
- A paper calendar
Your Child’s Support Binder
You might live in email, but if you work to get support for your child in the educational system, sooner or later you’ll end up in a meeting where you’ll have to pull out a piece of paper and pass it around. Not only do the educational system, and a large part of the medical system still use paper, but your exhibits might well be first or second-grade writing and spelling tests. Because of this, you really can’t beat a large, 1.5” three-ring binder in for storing information about your LD child’s school experience.
You can buy these products at any office supply store, where you should also purchase binder tabs and pockets, but we’re including links to the products that we use. We’ve used just plain tabs before, but some of us like the tab pockets as well.
Many parents use a small paper calendar to track dates that pertain to their child’s education. Some parents use their calendar to track teacher meetings and conversations. If the teacher tells you that she’s trying a new technique, you can mark on the calendar when she changes her approach, and then keep samples of your child’s work to see if the technique is effective. If you choose to hire a tutor or a specialist, you can track the experience on this calendar as well. A paper calendar is good, because you can pull it out during meetings.
What Information Should You Track?
Parents often divide “managing school” into two parts. The first part is talking with the teacher and supporting your child, and the second part is formally claiming support, as described in How do I Apply for an IEP? You’ll need to keep good records for both. Here are some types of information to track:
Learn and track your child’s challenges in the school world. Are his challenges just for reading, math, sitting still? How are his social skills? Can he remember things? What’s hard for him to learn? It’s very common to discover that your child has more challenges than just one. Diagnosing the Whole Child describes all of the ways in which a child can be evaluated for LDs. Keep those categories in mind and try to gather information about every area that is a challenge. Collect examples, write dates and explanations on the back, and put them in a binder. Use tabs to arrange information by date.
You can keep all test results and use them to monitor progress. It’s important to realize that most tests don’t measure in a parallel fashion, and it can be difficult to compare results of two different tests.
The Curriculum, and What Parts are Hard for Your Child
Teachers commonly use a plan for what they are teaching, called a curriculum. If you can talk your teacher into sharing her curriculum with you, you can not only try to prepare your child in advance for what will be presented, but you can also track what part of the curriculum is difficult for your child. This provide valuable feedback to your teacher and might help detect patterns of learning trouble.
If homework is an issue, keep track of how long your child spends on homework, and whether or not you need to re-teach your child at night. Also keep track of what homework is sent home. If homework is too difficult to do, or is presented in a way that is particularly difficult for your child, make a copy of it and write why, either on a sticky note, or on the back of the paper. If you change the homework to make it easier, track what you do and if it works. Some parents take pictures of homework, to track what’s difficult to learn.
Communications from the Teacher and School
Finally, keep all communications from the teacher or school, including report cards, tests, any notes home, and any emails. If you have a conversation with a teacher, specialist, or administrator, email them later that day, summarizing the conversation (“Just so I got it right,”) then print out the email and put it into your binder.
Is the teacher doing anything special to support your child? Is your child getting any accommodations? Make sure you keep track of them. You can also share this information with future teachers or tutors so they can see what works and what doesn’t.