Friday, August 10, 2012

A Peek Inside My Planning Binder

In Tuesday's post, I mentioned that I had put together a planning binder to keep with all of Lily's "stuff" for kindergarten.  Lots Two of you asked for a closer look at the binder.  And since I always aim to please my readers, today I'm going to give you an inside look at my latest creation.

Before we get started, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

One, this binder hasn't actually been tested and proven to work just yet.  This is how I'm planning to hopefully stay on top of all the paperwork I'm expecting to see flow between the school and my home. And we all know that reality has a way of working its magic on our best-laid plans.  If the binder isn't working, I'll obviously change to something else and I'll let you know if that happens.

Two, this is old-school.  My husband thinks I've lost my mind for not doing all of this electronically.  And maybe he's right.  But I've always been a pen and paper kind of gal.  And I don't need any tutorials on how to punch holes and file.  You may prefer to take these ideas and incorporate them into an electronic system.  To which I say, "Good for you! Now show me how you did it!"

Three, this is a work in progress.  I'm still collecting much of the information that will be in the binder.

And four, I got a lot of my information on creating the planning binder from which is a valuable source of information regarding special education law and advocacy.  There is a ton of material on the website that will prove helpful to all parents of special needs children in the public schools so I encourage you to bookmark it.

OK, let's get this show on the road!

First of all, I'm using all the fun binder building supplies from the Martha Stewart Home Office with Avery line that you can find at Staples stores.

There are lots of materials that enable you to customize your binder to fit your exact needs.

I chose a large smooth red binder and right in the front, I put some free printable 2012 calendars I found online at The Tomkat Studio.

I organized my binder per the instructions on the Wright's Law website so my dividers are labeled Providers, Contact Log, Master Document List, Documents, and Incident Forms.

The Providers file is a form like this:

and contains a list of anyone who provides services to Lily - doctors, therapists, teachers, evaluators, and the like.  It puts all of those people in one easily accessible place, as well as their contact information.

The Contact Log looks like this:

and gives you a spot to record meetings, phone calls, emails, text messages... any type of communication you have with any of your child's providers.  I also plan to put copies of emails in this section of my binder.

The Master Document List is simply a recording of all the documents in my binder in one handy reference.  It will allow me to quickly locate a document when I need it and it looks like this:

The Documents section is pretty self-explanatory.  It will contain all of Lily's educational records, filed in chronological order (oldest paper on top working to newest paper at the end).  This creates a "big picture" of Lily's educational experience, from the very beginning to the most recent event simply by reading from front to back.

The Incident Forms look like this:

and this:

These are really only used on an "as needed" basis for issues like not doing school or home work, discipline, behavioral concerns, or conflicts.  The anecdotal form could also be used for less "dramatic" things like playground accidents or falling out of chair in the classroom and the like. 

The Wright's Law website provides a much better explanation than I could for why the binder is put together this way rather than topically.  Click Organizing the File for more details on how to put together your own binder.

If you would like to make your own copies of these forms, here are some helpful links:

Now, I'm a computer dunce so I did a lot of cutting and pasting from websites to Pages to create my contact log and my problem report worksheet.  If you want to do a little cutting and pasting yourself, have at it using these blank ones below.  

Contact Log:

What you wanted
What you were told

Problem Report Worksheet
Do you have frequent or ongoing problems with the school – frequent suspensions, homework problems, teacher problems? You can use the Problem Report worksheet to document ongoing school problems. If you have several Problem Reports about the same issue, this is evidence that your child’s program or placement is not appropriate.
Date:    ______/__________/_________
            Month       Date                  Year
Problem: ____________________________________________________
People involved: ______________________________________________
Facts (5 Ws + H + E)
What happened? ______________________________________________
When did it happen? ___________________________________________
Who was involved? ____________________________________________
Where did it happen? __________________________________________
Why did it happen? ____________________________________________
Who witnessed? ______________________________________________
What action did school take? ____________________________________
What action did you take? ______________________________________
Other facts: __________________________________________________

Click here for a handy list of which of the hundreds of documents our kiddos generate that are actually keepers.

I have a large zipper pouch in the back to hold pens, post-its, paper clips, and things like that:

as well as a vertical file folder containing the originals of all the forms used in the binder:

And there you have it!  Of course, it looks lovely now, all fresh and new for the school year.  But, while it may not stay looking lovely, fresh, and new, I'm hoping it will keep me organized and on top of things so that I can be a key player in Lily's kindergarten success.

Questions?  Comments?  Suggestions? Advice from those of you who've been down this road a time or two??  It would be greatly appreciated so shoot me a line!

Have a fantastic weekend!


  1. Wanted to add a quick PS - here's a link to another Contact Log form that's ready to go:

  2. Lana- Thanks for telling me about It should prove very handy during the next few days when my mom and i are trying to figure out why i am not allowed to try out for the JV cross country team because i have an IEP.I have an IEP because i have a hearing aid and use an FM system in school. They will be unable to use but how could you use the FM during practice/meets? arguement because the district AT lady knows how to sports adapt it. This is really frustrating and discrimatnating.My mom and i are not happy and neither is the CSE.

    1. Wright's Law should be very helpful for you, Kathryn. Good luck!

  3. Ok, so wait, you are a list maker AND a binder girl too?!?!? I totally heart you, Lana Rush!! I thought I was totally alone in the "old-school" write it down world!!!

    ARD meetings will never be the same again once they see your handy dandy notebook! You go girl!

    And who doesn't love Martha Stewart products?!?

    1. I confess - I love binders! There's just something about them that electronics can't beat...

  4. Oh you put me to shame! My 'binder' is inside my head and it is not a pretty sight I can tell you. Nor is it effective. I did however eventually put all my sons clinical and education reports etc in a binder, properly segmented, some time ago. I too like paper trails and pen and paper. Very effective when you arrive at a clinical appointment or an IEP with binder (and planner) in hand. Shows that you're not only a pen and paper gal but a 'don't mess me with me' one too ;-)

    xx Jazzy

    1. I could no longer hold it all my head - maybe when I was in my 20's but not anymore! Hopefully, I can stick with it and STAY organized - that's the secret, right??

  5. You have no idea how much I love this binder. It's perfect! So excited for Lily!!!

    1. Don't think I haven't seen your cute little family calendars and stuff, girl! :)

  6. Very very cool! I guess I should have mentioned in my request to see inside your binder that I have a little "thing" for office supplies... girl, you have done me proud!

    Another place you might want to look for some great planner organization and free forms is the Autism Speaks First 100 Days guide. If you want it, email me and I'll send it on over to you (caldweka [at] gmail [dot] com)

    1. When I stay out of office supply stores long enough, I actually forget how much I love them. But then when I finally inside one by myself, it's like the little nerd in me resurfaces and feels so satisfied when I leave with that bag of goodies! :) I'll email you in a bit here... thanks for the tip!

  7. Impressive! You know, electronically goes only so far. IEPs are always in paper form with signatures. Really, now, if I was totally organized I would simply scan that into electronic form too but I'm just not that organized. What is in your coffee girl?! You are just as organized as can be lately!! Please tell me the secret. I am in awe. :)

    1. There's just something about crossing things off a good old pen and paper list that an electronic device just can't fulfill. But you hit the nail on the head, Miss Karen - we'll see if I can STAY this organized. Ask to see my binder around Thanksgiving....


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