Prisoner on Paper

Help.  I’m being held captive in a dusty house somewhere in the Southeast.

Mountains of a decade’s worth of official paperwork for my children surround me.  Evil stacks of looming, dust-filled documents torture by tickling the nose.  I’m taunted and goaded to turn over a new leaf from Proud Procrastinator to Peppy Secretary.  They threaten to slit my fingers!  If only I could beat them down to a woody pulp…but I’m just too darn tired.

Every doctor, therapist, case manager, and resource teacher per child hands me more paper with each visit.  I receive updates in the mail.  Sometimes these are duplicates, because I asked for copies I knew I had somewhere.  Children come home with reports in their backpacks.

What’s worse, HHS, DOE, and related service agencies are going green and paperwork is emailed.  Now I can get more overwhelmed in the comfort of my own home.  I must make sure I print it out because I’m in constant fear of my children’s games crashing my computer.  If the information is in a sealed, zip file, I scramble to find passwords hastily scratched on the backs of drafts.  I must make sure I have enough printer paper.  I must make sure I collate (sometimes my printer gets a little excited if it’s a big file and it starts shooting out sheets).  Then, I add it to a landfill called our house.

Today, there’s an Annual IEP Review for one of my three children.  Last night was devoted to a hacking-away party (I too have found Jimmy Hoffa) by collecting, sorting, hole-punching, reviewing draft goals sent via email, and writing concerns with a vision.  Seriously, this meeting is important; it piggybacks a re-evaluation and sets the stage for a transition plan.

I really hope the IEP team doesn’t flinch when they read that the vision for my son is to someday require less paperwork.  Is there a word for Paper Phobia?

I look through books and search the internet for shortcuts to getting organized.  Of course there are none.  However, my research shows there are several methods to keeping good records for your child.  Some say to order it chronologically, but to include everything:  medical reports and lab tests, evaluations, Social Security, Medicaid, school.  Some insist on a 3-ring binder for the school stuff only, with index tabs separating areas by evaluations, IEPs, progress reports, report cards, and correspondence.  Whew.

In our school district, we’re lucky to have a full-time Exceptional Children’s (that’s what we call Special Ed. in our state) Parent Liaison.  She hosts IEP notebook workshops.  We were told to bring a one-inch three-ring binder.  My mounds of paperwork just laughed and told me to tell her I’ll bring a three-drawer steel cabinet and “she’d better like it”.  One drawer for each child- just for the school records.  I decide I need an administrative assistant.  I need a wife.  I need a life!

It occurred to me that only recently do I have the luxury of writing about these woes, instead of doing what I should be doing (filing).  It took years for the boys to receive services in order to have all this paperwork.  I don’t recall getting out of the house before 2006.  If you had told me ten years ago I’d be taking time to complain on this blog, I would have laughed harder than my cruel world of pulp non-fiction.

But please, take pity.  I reach out with my little calloused, bleeding hands:  Free me.  Tell me what works.  How do you handle your kid’s paperwork?

Gesundheit,
momof3au
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9 Responses

  1. Just a thought – how do you use these files when you need to retrieve the info? ( or maybe if you did go paperless – always keeping a back up paper file) what would you like it to look like. One way might not work for everyone – but maybe by subject then by child might work – alphabetically – I am working on my vacation schedule for next year – maybe a chance for you to have secretary. –

  2. I hate to say but I’ve just started throwing the stuff out. For years I kept all the paper neatly organized. Then I realized the school staff never even read the stuff. I couldn’t blame them. I just stopped keeping the stuff. Schools will make their decisions on the kid in front of them and the schools needs/beliefs. No mound of paper will ever influence that. So after I realized no one was reading the stuff I just stopped keeping it. Now as we move because of financial need we will enter a middle school mid year with just our sons last report card. Dumb I know but I don’t have the last IEp and didn’t expect to need it. May the Lord have mercy on our son and the new school be understanding.

  3. Well, we’re geeks, so we come at the whole email/crashing issue from the other side — documents are much safer with us if we have them in electronic form, and much easier to find (where’s the “search” function on this filing cabinet??)

    I scan a lot of documents, including everything we sign, name the files by date (year-mo-dy description) and put them in folders according to where the actual paper is (“items not kept”, “filing cabinet”, etc. or “electronic” for the ones we do receive by email).

    Stuff I want other people to have access to gets posted on the wiki, with a link from Josh’s page — http://wiki.hypertwins.org/Josh

    I just wish we could find a faster scanner; “pages scanned per minute” doesn’t seem to be a selling-point on low-end scanners. I guess we need to get one that has a document feeder, but they’re a lot more expensive.

  4. I can’t help but wonder what happens with the children whose parents don’t even try. It’s a lot of work, overwhelming at times for the most disciplined among us. Certainly there are a majority of parents out there who come into IEP meetings with nothing in their hands, not even an idea of hope or what to hope for, accepting whatever it is their child is given.

    God love ya momof3au, and God love each of you who carry 30 pounds of paper with you to those meetings. You are holding them accountable, pushing and pulling for every goal and for making it harder for them to take advantage of every child left behind.

    The day I read in the paper that an athletic program has been suspended due to lack of funds will be the day I believe the other side of the table truly cares enough to read and understand what we present to them. Meanwhile, Fight Club will continue.

  5. bensmyson

    You can only bang your head on a wall so long before you realize the only thing coming down is you. My child needs me up and walking not killing my self over an unweilding buerocracy with tight funds.
    I have worked in schools, I have hired lawyers to fight schools and everything in between. In the end the only thing that worked was accepting the school for what it was and working around them. Talking to teachers and staff getting to know them and having them want to be more understanding.
    I have seen pounds of papers neatly organized and passed to school personnel that have sat there and never been read. In the end remember the person you hand it to probably all ready got 20 other stacks that day never mind how many they will get that week. School staffs are humans not gods.
    Vsheehan

  6. I organize the old fashioned way…papers kept in labeled manilla folders alphabetized in metal file cabinets in my office. I also file choronologically… the newest versions in front of the older ones. There are scads of documents in the computer as well, but I’m old fashioned and like hard copies. If you do the filing automatically as soon as you receive or create the paper, it won’t pile up and overwhelm. Trite but true. It usually works for me and for the Augustine Project.

  7. I am one of those parents who actually walk into an IEP meeting without ALL those papers, but I do go in with hope and an idea of what I want for my child. That is what I foucs on along with his goals. As it is my house is overrun with papers between keeping all the IEP documentation and my homework stuff (emphasis on stuff) that we have very little living space. The thought of going through and organizing and filing all this paper is overwhelming!

    momof3au–I feel your pain and I hereby set you free!! Soar like an eagle.:-)

  8. I have tried and tried to get organized. I take comfort in knowing that somewhere in our lawyers office is a copmlete set of documents in these very legal looking binders that will always be there. So at least I know that from the time of O’s diagnosis until last March, I’ve got everything backed up and cataloged. The rest is in a nice pile in the corner of my office. oh vey, what a mess. Glad I’m not the only one with this problem.

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