Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Progress Notes and IEPs

This year I've been a mentor to two new OTRs on our staff, which has made me hyper-aware of deadlines and standard operating procedures.  One "to-do" I've tried to make as painless as possible for them is keeping in compliance with the due dates of the interims and quarterly progress reports, which coincide with the general education report cards going home.

About ten years ago I worked with a vigilant PT who kept me on track so I usually finished my progress notes ahead of time, but I floundered on my own after I began working at other schools in my county where my friend did not serve the students.  Then, I got back into the swing of things about three years ago, writing joint progress notes on mutual students with my super-structured PT colleague from Belgium and the reports have been rolling out like clockwork ever since. 

We made a point of adding examples of progress, not just general descriptions, and tried to be as objective and to the point as possible.  Since we wrote together we'd call each other out when we were being too vague.  For example, my PT friend would write, "Suzie can independently ambulate, using her posterior walker, from classroom to the lunchroom without rest breaks," and I'd counter, "How many feet is that?"  She'd look at me cross-eyed and say, "About 300 feet," and I'd scoff, "She walked a whole football field?" and she'd groan and adjust her measurement, "Oh, all right; 100 feet."  As you might expect, some of our joint reports took awhile to hammer out.

When IEP season rolled around this year I dreaded the prep for all those meetings, especially writing info on the Present Level of Performance.  Hark--one day it dawned on me that I had already done the work of writing my PLEP "blurb" since my progress reports clearly documented the progress made by the students throughout the school year.  I copied and pasted all my progress notes into the PLEP, removed any duplicated facts and added new information.  It was succinct and accurate, since I knew that I had written careful details throughout the year.

Spending time away from students to write their progress notes and annual plans can be overwhelming, but I've discovered at least one payoff for writing detailed progress notes during the year--less time at my lonely computer during IEP season.

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