Nothing on this page is intended as personal legal advice. For legal questions, it is important to consult an attorney in your own community.
By Melissa Lackman, Esq.
He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe. Proverbs 28:26 (NIV)
When I was young and thought I knew everything, I trusted myself to keep track of large amounts of information effortlessly. Years and firsthand experience of the chaos that a hidden disability can bring to a home have changed my thinking.
A few years ago, our family was considering moving to a different state. While my husband was narrowing down the search with job interviews, I was interviewing school district special education directors. I put together a notebook to document my son’s disability and I was startled by the positive impact my notebook made. The directors I interviewed even asked me to consider teaching the families in their districts how to put together a book! We were able to have very useful conversations about what each school district could offer to address the particular needs of my son.
I have come to believe that this notebook is one of my most important tools in getting my son the help he needs, and I plan to keep some version of it going indefinitely. I keep it with our most important legal papers and I can grab it in an instant in an emergency. It gives me confidence, makes a good impression on school personnel, and sends a message that I have self-control and competence.
Without further ado, here is my notebook.
Cover: 1-inch binder with a plastic pocket on the cover. A recent, attractive picture of my son fills the pocket.
Page 1: What I would hand to the police if my son were missing. This is an outline of identifying and critical information. I would be very likely to forget something important in an emergency, so I prepared it in advance. This sheet should be reviewed and updated yearly, and when medications are changed. A photocopy of any state or school photo ID should also be on this page.
Gender, Ethnicity, Date of Birth:
Height and weight:
Tattoos? Piercings? Scarring or Acne?
Any unusual physical characteristics?
Personal cell phone number:
Email, blog, website if applicable
Facebook page, if applicable
How his disability affects his behavior, his appearance
What clothing he likes to wear
Special interests and hobbies
How best to approach him
I have tabbed sections in my binder for:
1. Current IEP, Annual Report of Progress
2. Recent psycho-educational evaluations (evaluations and testing by the local school district)
3. Regional Center Autism Diagnosis, Department of Mental Health Evaluation, Neurological Report, Occupational Therapy Evaluations
4. State Diagnostic Center (Department of Education) Evaluations
5. Older school evaluations
6. Citizenship and vaccination records
7. Standardized testing
Melissa Lackman is a member of the California Bar, not currently in active practice. She is married to Vernon, a physician, and is privileged to be the mother of three children.