The start of school seems to be a good time to do many things. It just seems a natural starting point for making changes or starting new ventures. With the kids in school, there may be more time for parents to attend to the little details that get shoved aside over the summer. One such detail is a logbook for your child(ren) on the spectrum. This can be an invaluable tool for dealing with teachers, doctors, therapists and your child’s behavior.
Autism requires high maintenance
Autistic children often have numerous medical appointments, therapies, medications, vitamins and more. It’s hard to keep up with sometimes. It’s even harder for a teacher or doctor to keep up with all of your child’s special considerations. This can lead to misinformation, confusion and even incorrect medications. The appointments, along with illnesses, major behavioral episodes and more, can cause your child to miss school at a greater than average rate. Add to the list the differing opinions among the various doctors, therapists and teachers and you have a recipe for disaster, or at least wildly varying instructions and methods for handling different problems.
Autistic children need consistency
One thing almost everyone agrees on is that autistic children need consistency and benefit greatly from routines, structure and “sameness.” But maybe the TEACCH therapist recommnends one method, the teacher recommends another, and then the speech therapist offers yet another suggestion. How to follow advice and maintain a consistent approach with your child? It’s very difficult, especially if one practitioner disagrees with another, which is not an uncommon occurrence.
A logbook can help
While a logbook can’t resolve differences among practitioners, it can go a long way toward helping you to determine which approach works best, keep a journal of appointments and medications, and keep all your child’s information in one place. Although most doctors, teachers and therapists will tell you that no one knows your child as well as you do, it seems hard for them to actually put that theory into practice, and they instead practice as if you know the least of anyone about your child. You don’t have a medical or psychological degree, so how can you be heard? With a very clearly documented logbook or journal.
What to include in a journal for your autistic child
Here’s a checklist of items you can put into the logbook. This is by no means an exhaustive list, and you may have other ideas (if you do, would you post them in the comments, so everyone can benefit?):
- a list of all of your child’s medications and supplements and the date it was last updated or changes made,
- the names and phone numbers of all doctors, therapists, teachers and caregivers who work with your child
- any allergies your child has to food or medicines,
- details of behavior problems including dates, triggers (suspected or known), length of time for any tantrums, self-injurious behaviors (SIB) or crying, what helped or didn’t help, etc.
- specific suggestions, plans or advice from practioners
- tardiness or absences from school along with the reason and any documentation to support the reason,
- if you have sought help with the reason for tardiness or absences, document your quest for help: who helped, what was tried,
- emergency information,
- your child’s likes and dislikes, preferred method of communication, best way to soothe, etc.
- Use your logbook to document everything you might need, for example, the next time a doctor treats you as if you don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s amazing how much more respect a parent gets when she presents charts, documentation and lists.
- Take your journal to each appointment.
- Give each practitioner, including the school, a copy of the list of practitioners and the medications/supplements, and take them an updated copy each time you visit.
- Area school systems, such as Wake County School System, Durham County Schools or surrounding counties have strict guidelines about attendance, but will be much more understanding if you can easily show documentation for any absences or lateness. This becomes more important as you approach the maximum number of absenses, because you will be required to provide additional documentation above that which you may have sent to the teacher at the time of an absence.
Subscribe or check back after Labor Day for more examples and tips, and free charts and other forms you can download.
Other articles by AJ:
How to use the new MyPlate icon to help your autistic child eat better
Autism & Food Issues
Dealing with the initial diagnosis of autism.