by Marilee Emerson, M.Ed., BCBA, UCF CARD

Do you ever wish that teachers, in-laws and community members knew your child as well as you? That they really understood who your child is, not just their disability label? An opportunity exists to share meaningful information with people in your child’s life who want to help, but may not know what to do.

There are lots of names for a parent developed document that informs people about your child: Portfolio, All About Me Book, Profile, Guidebook to name a few. No matter what you call it, the ultimate purpose it to share positive, useful information so that others can be as successful with your child as you.

Our children are individuals. Someone once said, when you’ve met a person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. The portfolio you put together about your child, communicates the individuality of your child. A portfolio is also a time saver: as our children grow, so does their cumulative record and educators may not always have the time to read through the entire file. Also, the kind of information that needs to be shared may not be in the cumulative record. The portfolio also sends a message of parent involvement and can help to augment the Individual Education Planning process.

So what do you put in a portfolio? Here are some tips and ideas to make it work for you. Parents can chose the materials they feel most comfortable with: scrapbook format, typed document, PowerPoint presentation, one page fact sheet, etc. One key element is a picture of your child on the front page. This helps to engage a reader, and keep a positive focus. We want people to read the document you create, and a great picture of your child is a wonderful marketing tool.

Here are some elements that we often see in a portfolio:

Specific disability information: short and sweet, with a good web-link for more information

Strengths: things your child does well. It can be simple, or complex

Likes & Dislikes: this kind of information can help teachers motivate and also avoid trouble spots as they get to know your child

Fears: some of our kids have them, and they may be unique. Best to share if they may potentially cause a problem (i.e. fire alarms, vacuum cleaners, men in white coats)

Calming activities/items/words: if your child has a way to calm himself with support, it will be good for teachers to know too. That special word or activity can go a long way to avoid further problems.

“Triggers”: certain words, activities that are likely to elicit a problem response

Behavior Supports/Strategies: tried and true strategies that work for your child

Dos and Dont’s: this can compliment the behavior support section, i.e. pep talks are not effective for my child; clear, precise expectations are

Assistive Technology: describe what it is and how your child uses

Organizational & visual supports: can include description and examples

Work samples: including a sample of your child’s ‘best’ handwriting can help a teacher gauge when not to take away ‘neatness’ credit

Medical/Medication: if appropriate, for better awareness

Helpful websites: www.ucf-card.org, locally for autism & deaf-blind support

For step by step instruction, check out: Positive Educational Planning: A Guide for Thoughtful Preparation for the Educational Planning Process, you can download this document: http://card-usf.fmhi.usf.edu/Positive_Plan_Download.pdf