Getting Organized in the New Year: Tips for Families

“You see, being organized is NOT about being perfect; it’s about customizing your whole world to work FOR you.”   ~unknown

From my family to yours, happy 2017! Yes, a new year is upon us and, like many people, I see it as an opportunity for a fresh start. I look forward to a new calendar and getting back to my schedule and routines. I’m also anxious to work on my goals of going to the gym regularly, saving money, remembering to do random acts of kindness, and becoming better organized. 

As parents and family members of children with disabilities, a new year also highlights the need to refocus on the many tasks we deal with every year related to services that promote our children’s education, health, and quality of life. In this post, I would like to share some tips and resources to help you stay on top of these important tasks in 2017.

Preparing for Annual Meetings

Sometime during the coming year, you will likely have an annual meeting about your child’s developmental and educational needs. This may be related to an Individualized Family Service Plan [IFSP] (for infants and toddlers), an Individualized Education Program [IEP] (for students 3 through 21) or 504 Plan. The PACER Center has some excellent resources explaining the features of these different plans:

You will want to keep track of the information about your child’s evaluations and services, so you can access it easily. Beginning or improving the way you organize this information is a great way to start a brand new year and this video and materials can help:  How to Organize Your Child’s IEP Binder.   

Organizing Medical Appointments

As family members, we are also faced with yearly medical appointments to promote our children’s health and well-being.  We also need to obtain updated documentation and reports from a variety of health care practitioners, such as our child’s general practitioner, ophthalmologist or optometrist, and audiologist. These reports are often essential to ensure our children receive the services they need. We quickly see our fresh new calendars fill with medical and therapy appointments, so here is a great tool: Organizing Medical Records: Creating a Care Notebook.

Legal Matters

If your child will turn 18 in 2017 and you do not have guardianship, you may wish to consider obtaining a Medical Power of Attorney (also known as Health Care Power of Attorney) that will allow you to continue to speak with your child’s medical team and health insurance company. Our own pediatrician suggested this to us as our son was approaching 18 and transitioning into adult medical care and it was excellent advice. Each state has different laws, but this link is free and gets you to a state-specific document.

Reviewing the Transition Timeline

Is your child approaching or of transition age during 2017? If so, you will want to check out the Transition Timeline: Where to Start. This list can serve as a reminder of activities and goals to address from age 14 through 21. You might want to print it out and keep in your IEP binder. Different items on the list are relevant at different ages, so you will want to refer to it every year. This is a very important tool for families planning their child’s transition from school to adult life. 

Completing Paperwork for Eligibility

And last, but certainly not least, is completing paperwork for your child’s yearly updates for eligibility for a variety of services. Whether this is for services at local, state, or national levels, we are often required to show that our child is still disabled for yet another year.  Proof of having a qualified disability is required for a variety of services, such as medical assistance, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).   Information may vary from state to state, so make sure you know the eligibility requirements for all of the services and benefits your child receives and the forms you must complete to ensure they will be continued.  

Here's to a Happy, Healthy, Organized New Year!

These are just a few of the ideas and resources that have been helpful to me and I hope they are of value to you as well. It is a bit of a myth that the ability to stay organized is a skill one is born with. The truth is that anyone can learn to become organized and do it in a way that works well for them. I wish you all a happy, healthy, and organized 2017.

Collage to organize the new year