Moms keep their children’s stuff.
That’s what we do.
A lot of the stuff we keep looks like this…
Artwork is fun to keep and looks so nice on the refrigerator. We are always, and rightfully so, proud of our kids and what they do. Surrounding ourselves in their wonderfulness is one of the extremely pleasant parts of parenting.
But as the parent of a special needs child there is a lot of other stuff I kept as well and some of it looks like this…
This notebook isn’t nearly as colorful and it didn’t decorate my refrigerator. Instead, it stayed on my desk. But it too speaks of what my child did and more significantly is a reminder of what he overcame. For in this particular notebook the entire record of my son Teddy’s Kindergarten through Third Grade experience is kept.
This notebook is a tool I use as a Human Capital Manager, Special Needs Division.
I am in Human Capital Management.
All mothers are.
And let me tell you, (not that you didn’t already know) HCM is one tough field.
I am responsible, to a large degree, for the outcome of another human being. And when I was assigned to the Special Needs Division, the demands placed on me were increased while the possibility of my child being a self-sufficient adult were decreased.
This is a serious business.
It isn’t for the dilettante or the faint of heart.
And while the duration of most job assignments are measured in weeks or quarters, a HCM’s assignment is measured in decades – multiple decades.
The fallacy of remuneration equaling import is quite apparent. For my role in Human Capital Management, although thought to be an unpaid position (I will get into that in another post) is critical to our economy. Although the contribution goes mostly unrecognized.
Looking strictly at dollars, if I am a successful Human Capital Manager, in the course of my career, I can make an impact that could be worth HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS. For there are two primary outcomes for most children - they can be a tax payer or a tax recipient. If my efforts in the Special Needs Division result in my child successfully overcoming the numerous obstacles before him and he can live independently he will become a tax payer. If this happens, I will have contributed to adding what he could pay in taxes throughout his working life, which, with the rising age of retirement, could be pushing nearly 50 years. Thus my efforts could add substantially to the income column of the government’s spreadsheet rather than adding to the expense column. That’s HUGE.
How is that not valued?
Mothering, HCM, is a vocation that requires unrelenting commitment and in the Special Needs Divisions there are pressures from every direction. I became the artery from which all of my child’s support systems flowed.
I managed doctors, therapists, teachers and school administrators.
I became researcher, scientist, psychologist, teacher, lawyer, secretary, nurse and advocate.
I didn’t read fiction. Instead, on my bedside table was a stack of books about Aspergers, Autism, child behavior, nutrition and sensory integration.
And I constantly thought about what I could be doing to help my son grow up to live his life the way he wanted.
Today I introduce you to a tool that was invaluable to me. It kept me straight while Teddy was in school and it has helped me write almost every single post about educating Teddy. It is my binder and I recommend to everyone, if they haven’t already, to put one together today. The organization it forced upon me was very valuable in that I always, on a moment’s notice, could put my hands on anything relating to Teddy, his testing, his schooling, whatever. It is a necessary tool in your HCM toolbox.
STEP ONE: When Teddy began Kindergarten I purchased a 3 inch binder, section dividers and a box of paper protectors. Whenever anything came home from school I filed it in this notebook.
These are the sections I made…
STEP TWO: Since IDEA was our playbook, I placed a full copy of the law in the front section. It grounded me. It helped me to remember what I always had on my side. Sadly, I had to refer to this section more times that I wished I had to. But I sure was glad I had it when we needed it. Mothers just a little older than me didn’t have such a law. Click here for a Special Education overview.
STEP THREE: The second section contained Evaluations. I placed copies of every evaluation that had ever been done on Teddy. You know how many there are!
STEP FOUR: Here’s a photo of the Kindergarten section. On the left is the second page of the Social Story I wrote for Teddy just before he started school. You can read it here. On the right is the first page of Teddy’s first IEP.
In addition to IEP’s, I kept teacher’s notes. In this photo you can see the Checklist that came home daily. Multiple page protectors hold those.
STEP FIVE: When a new school year started I made a new section. As first grade grew more difficult, my documentation became more extensive. You can read about the details of first grade here. I can not stress enough how important it is to sit down and record what is happening. It was not fun to list all of Teddy’s infractions but it was the only to address his challenges.
Talk to you kids and then listen to what they tell you. Listening and taking the necessary action sends such a strong message of support . Actions really do speak louder than words.
Every report card and every note home went into the notebook. The hand written note on the right is from Teddy’s third grade EC teacher. You can read the entirety of the letter here.
Remember the first section with the IDEA law? Well, here is the IDEA lawsuit we had to file in February 2000 when Teddy was in 3rd grade. You can read about it here. This notebook, the timelines I made, the notes from the teachers, were given to our attorney and helped bring about a positive settlement that changed forever the course of Teddy’s education.
STEP SIX: Finally, in the front and back pockets I kept miscellaneous notes and reading material. This is a copy of Newsweek’s cover story on Autism dated July 31, 2000.
My only regret, and so I recommend this to you is, if your child is on medication to include a section for that as well. My notes about his medicine are very sketchy. Had I enforced the same standard in that record keeping I would have had a more complete accounting of that eight year history.