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Sunday, September 26, 2010

ORGANIZATION-Part 2- Working Folders/Files

Good Morning Everyone! Of all the information that we will share, I think today’s tip is the greatest time saver and stress reliever EVER! Leah and I will share how we lay out our “working files” to streamline your documentation. This is a lengthy blog but well worth your time to read.

Once again, Leah and I do our files similarly, but slightly different. First though, I want to make sure everyone understands what I mean by “working folder” or “working file”. In public schools the student’s academic records are stored in a locked and secure location making access to them inconvenient for daily use. The real folders are usually only opened at meetings, annual updates, and for filing progress reports, etc. Our “working files” are those folders we keep in our possession in our therapy rooms -- those files in which we keep our information and daily documentation. I should also add that these folders/files are stored and locked in our therapy room at night also.

I’ll explain how I do mine, and then you will read how Leah does her system. I use a simple manila folder. By using actual manila folders it gives me the tab to write the student name and therapy time. I attach those 2 part paper fasteners to the inside at the top of the folder, on the left and right sides. The left hand side of the folder (when it is open), is where I put my Service Logs. I use the same service log whether the child is Medicaid or not. If the child is not Medicaid I simply hand write in the student name. If the child is Medicaid I will use a pre-made label with all the Medicaid required information.

Let me veer off topic slightly here and explain my system for using labels. When a child is first enrolled I will print 3 pages of 10 labels (2x4 inches) with their name & their Medicaid #, service provider & provider #, and the diagnostic area & codes, etc. Now all I have to do is peel and stick labels on the pages. Our school district provided us with 3 part NCR Medicaid approved printed Service Logs. That is why I needed so many labels. Each month I could tear out and replace all my students Medicaid service logs in less than an hour. I keep the back page for my records right in the folder for reference when reporting progress. Just put the new service log on top of the older copy.

On the right side on my folder I kept a copy of the child’s current IEP which contained all the info I would need regarding latest testing, current goals and objectives, annual and triennial review dates, DOB etc. And last, I keep those labels, worksheets/homework sheets, etc just loose within the folder. (I would stay after school periodically to copy large quantities of worksheets/homework so they would be available and ready for my therapy.)

At the end of each therapy session, I would quickly note the results of each session on the service log in the child’s folder that was in that particular group and put them back in the “milk” crate. Voila’! Documentation completed with little time or effort spent. Pull the next group’s folders and you are ready for your next session.

Leah uses different-colored 2-pocket prong folders for her daily working files. She uses the colors to indicate the grades for her students. For example, Kindergarten folders are orange, 1st grade folders are purple, 2nd grade are blue, etc. She keeps her folders turned on their sides in a milk crate so the spine of the folder is at the top. On the front of the spine she writes the students names with a Sharpie marker. If the student moves or is dismissed from services, it is easy to reuse the folders simply by using an art gum eraser to remove the writing, or sometimes she just cuts a piece of duck tape and places it over the names. (Duck tape comes in many colors now!) Since it does, she also uses it to help her know at a glance which students have Medicaid numbers by placing a piece of silver duck tape on the bottom across the spine of the folders. She also has placed a piece of turquoise tape on the top end of the folders to indicate which students are considered “duplicated.” This is a visual reminder that other special education personnel are involved with the child if any IEP meetings need to be scheduled during the year. A picture of her working folders is shown.

In the front pocket she keeps a year-at-a-glance attendance calendar that was created by Sue Sexton (5 Minute Kids). The calendar can be found at HYPERLINK "" Scroll down to the section titled 5 Minute Kids Data Forms and click on the Calendar 2006-2017.xls to find the form. You will need Microsoft Excel to be able to open the form. It is a quick and easy way to see if you are meeting your therapy minutes. Behind the calendar, Leah keeps data/tally sheets.

Inserted first in the 3-prong section is a piece of cardstock with the 2-part paper fasteners that I mentioned above. This is where Leah keeps her service records. She bends both prongs to the left so that she can easily slip her service records on and off the prongs without having to bend the prongs each time. This keeps the prongs from breaking, as they do after repeated bending. The most recent service record is always on top. At the end of the month, for those children who have Medicaid numbers, she slips off the service record, copies it using colored paper, sends the original in for billing, and places the colored copy back in her folder. She then places a blank copy of her service record on top and she is ready to document another months services. She uses the colored paper to help keep on track with submitting her Medicaid billing. If there is still a white copy on top, she hasn’t submitted it yet!

Her service record is a form that shows at a glance all the pertinent information regarding that child. The top of the paper has been completed with the child’s name, birth date, Medicaid number, service provider and number, annual review date, triennial date, etc. Also included are her states Medicaid codes and spaces to bill for the month. The child’s goals are listed next. Underneath that is a chart which has the headings: date, time in, time out, IEP objective, Procedure code, Care coordination, Units, Activity/Progress, SLP initial. When she sees her children, at the end of each session, she quickly completes one row in the chart with the daily info. At the end of the month, she tallies the Medicaid units, signs the bottom, copies it and her billing is complete.

Behind the service records, but also in the 3-prong section is where Leah keeps her pre- and post-test baseline forms. At the beginning of each year, she quickly administers a baseline probe for the items targeted for therapy. If the child has not mastered all their goals by the end of the year, the same probe is re-given to show progress. They are then re-administered the following Fall. Doing this can also be show regression or progress over summer breaks.

In the back pocket of the folder Leah keeps her blank service records. When an IEP is written, she creates the service record on her computer. She makes 10 or 11 copies and places them in the back pocket so she will have enough copies for one year of services. Behind the service records she will keep activity sheets for use with that student. At the end of each therapy session she quickly completes the service records, puts the folders in the milk crate and she’s ready to pull out the next set of folders for the next group!

Here's a close up of Leah's working files:


  1. Hey Dean,

    What great ideas!! I include similar info in my working files, but I've never thought to use those 2-prong fasteners to keep things organized. Mine are usually a jumble of papers! One thing I do to stay organized is use one of the mailbox organizers that are commonly seen in pre-k or kindergarten classrooms. Each group gets its' own cubby and there is room to put all of the working files and any materials, such as card decks or books, that I want to use with the group next time. This has helped me tremendously because it allows me to have all the materials I need in one convenient place when the kids walk in the door. Thanks again for the suggestions!


  2. Paula, the "cubby idea" is great! Thanks for sharing with us!

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