Organising and using children’s professional reports.
Organising the children’s individual reports and paperwork was one of the first jobs that I did when I moved into my own ASD class. Prior to being offered my position, I did not know my children or my future parents and due to interviews being held late in the Summer holidays, I only received my job offer 10 days before school was due to start back. I had been working in my present school as a shared Resource Teacher during the previous year so I simply asked my principal if I could have access to the school for the week before we were due back and he was happy to oblige. Having such a short time to prepare for going into my then empty classroom was, at the time, quite daunting. Luckily, I work well under pressure and began by making a list of things that I felt were priorities but also realistic goals for such a short timeframe.
First on my to do list was sorting, organising and reading through each child’s individual professional reports. I cannot highlight and stress the importance of doing this. Please do not let these valuable reports gather dust in a filing cabinet, use them as working documents to support your own planning, teaching and in the development of your children’s IEPs.
I simply began by taking out all relevant paperwork relating to my children and compiled an individual file for each child. I divided each file into subsections for Psychologist reports, Speech and Language reports, Occupation Therapy reports, Physiotherapy reports, CAMHS reports, behaviour/risk assessments, previous school reports, IEPs and any NSCE documentation, etc (completely dependent on which professionals and organisations are involved in supporting your individual children). I file each of these reports from newest to oldest so I had the most recent reports or reviews at the front of each section. Do please note that this is very sensitive information and should always be locked away securely.
FILING TIP: In my first year, I had one large lever arch file for all children in class subdivided (and colour coded for each child) as mentioned above. Last year, I trialled individual ring binder folders for each child. I liked the individuaI folders, however found it easier to access documentation for meetings using the single larger folder; less to carry and everything is all in one place, so this is what I am reverting to using for this coming year. I therefore have one folder set up for reports/paperwork and a second folder for assessments (again subdivided and colour coded).
Once my filing system was in place, I set about reading each of the reports thoroughly, both historic reports and updated reviews. I wrote a brief synopsis of each report detailing what was assessed, findings and recommendations given. I add this information to each child’s IEP as it allows me to begin to create a profile of needs for each child where input from all professionals involved is collated in one document. Just to note, this is not a requirement but is simply something that I choose to do to give myself a bigger picture of the child as a whole and also is simply a way that helps me to learn and remember everything!
As I am a teacher and not a Psychologist, OT, SLT, etc there were some things in these reports that I did not fully understand and I was not aware of some of the equipment and programmes that were recommended so I took time to research these independently and also contacted the SLT, OT, Psychologist, etc where appropriate to ask for clarification where and when I needed it. Remember that it is ok to ask for this clarification. In my own experience these professionals have always been happy to help or explain things.
I cannot emphasise the importance of utilising these reports enough. Please, please take note of what the professionals are telling you in these reports and follow through on the recommendations to the best of your ability. These highly trained professionals have worked with your children and created these reports and recommendations specifically to support the children in your care. They are an asset for any teacher to have and will give you a starting point for long term IEP goals for your children in each of these specialised areas as well as recommendations for ways in which you can support your child to develop such skills.
I am fully aware that no school has a bottomless financial fund to work from but do remember that children in an ASD class are given a higher rate of capitation (€840) than their mainstream counterparts (€170) and I am a strong believer that this money should, at least in part, be used to support the extra equipment, resources and interventions that children will need access to, in your class, to further support their development.
You will find the link to the PDF detailing the support, staffing, grants and capitation available for Early Intervention, Primary and Post Primary settings here so please read and make yourself aware of them: https://www.education.ie/en/Schools-Colleges/Services/Grants-and-Additional-Support/New-ASD-Classes-Staffing-Supports-and-Grants-Information.pdf
As I have said, organising and reading through your child’s specific reports is a great way to start the process of understanding your child’s needs, even before you meet them. This in addition to building relationships with your parents and getting to know your children on a personal level will all work towards giving you a bigger picture of your children and their specific needs. Having prior knowledge of your children will also give you an advantage when you do get a chance to talk to your parents as you will have the background information studied and understanding of some of the journey these parents and children have been on to date which, in turn, will help to reassure parents that you are willing and able to understand and support their child.
The reports will not only give you insight into the practical ways in which you can support your children but will also guide you towards the resources you would benefit from making and purchasing, the systems you should be considering using in your classroom (visuals, schedules, etc) to further support children , the programmes that will support your children’s learning and even guide you in your choice of courses that you might be considering attending to upskill in specific areas. All in all, they are a golden ticket, an insight into your children and a support that we should all be taking advantage of.
Next time I will be discussing how I prepared the physical set up of my classroom and later in this series of blog posts I will go into a little more detail on how I compile and use IEPs in my own class.
Until then, I hope you have found this useful and are beginning to see some ways in which you can start preparing for your own class even before meeting parents and children.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post and as always feel free to leave a comment, give it a like or contact me on my Instagram page @ASDCreationStation