If you’re anything like me, you spend an innumerable amount of time at your child’s school, interacting with his teachers, and attending IEP meetings. You spend so much time with the school and your child with the teachers and staff that you almost feel as though they know your child almost as much as you do. Of course, this is simply not true…but if there were a way to help them to know your child a little better and foster a better learning environment for your kiddo, you’d do it right? Darn right you would! I didn’t know what I could do or say that I hadn’t already done or said already…that is, until I went to an Autism meeting and was introduced to the Student Introduction Portfolio.
What is a Student Introduction Portfolio?
It is a way to provide information about your child beyond what is in the IEP. In most IEPs, the focus is on the challenges and goals for your child, very little focus is on the strengths and positives in your student. The portfolio provides all the “positive and good stuff.” Their likes, dislikes, talents, hobbies, abilities, history, health concerns, pictures and more. My son’s look like little books, contained in binders. I hand this portfolio to his teachers, aides, principal, nurse, gym teacher, bus driver, cafeteria monitors, and so on. Whoever comes into contact with my son on a regular basis, received a copy of his student portfolio. While I use hard copies of my kid’s portfolios, I have seen some that were created via Powerpoint and presented as a slide show on disk or usb. I see myself going towards this method of distribution in the future, but for now, my binders are good enough.
What information is in the Student Introduction Portfolio?
Some possible portfolio contents include:
- Checklist of who should read the portfolio
- Table of contents (you should number the pages if there are more than 8 pages)
- Student Specific Information:
- What makes him or her unique?
- Their loves, interests, and hobbies
- A week/day in the life of…
- Family background and information
- Educational history
- Relevant photographs and captions
- Letters or statements from friends, family and peers
- Work samples
- List of favorite games, books, movies
- Pertinent Educational Records:
- IEP goals and objectives
- Reports or summaries from therapists
- Comments from previous teachers
- Pertinent Health/Medical Records
- Articles pertaining to specific medical, health, or educational issues
- Helpful hints on using equipment (communication, positioning, mobility)
- Recommended reading list
How will your child be involved?
Dependent upon your child’s functional level, involve them in the making of this portfolio as best to their ability to assist. My youngest is higher functioning, and there will come a day when I want him to self-advocate, this portfolio is his introduction into doing just that. He has helped me tremendously on his portfolio, from choosing the artwork for the cover, to giving me his lists of likes, dislikes, and hobbies.
What do you want others to know about your child? What do you hope to communicate?
What do you want the readers of this portfolio to walk away with after having read this student profile? I wanted them to see my son as a child first, not his disability. I wanted them to see him doing things that kids do, running, jumping, playing chase with his brother, playing with blocks, etc. Too often the educators would get so wrapped up in meeting IEP goals that they would often forget that my child was…a child. I included pictures of him playing, laughing, being tickled, watching television, etc. This showed that my child enjoyed many of the things other children without disabilities enjoyed. This made him more than a disability, this made him a person.
Determine your audience.
Earlier I mentioned that if you came into contact with my son on a regular basis you received a student profile. Being that most of the individuals that received the portfolio were in the school setting, I am going to attempt to collect photographs of my son doing school related activities as well.
What is the best way to organize the portfolio?
Make a list of the most important information you want to include. Determine if any of this information can be grouped together or if it best left apart. Consider tabs and dividers. My children’s portfolios have been in three ring binders, binding combs, and notebooks. Remember, there is also the option of creating a presentation on the computer.
How will you present the portfolio with others?
This is where you determine how you want to disseminate the portfolio with your intended audience. There is always the IEP meeting. If you have one coming up, or if you would like to schedule one, this would be a chance to provide the portfolio. Scheduling a conference or meeting with the key participants in the IEP, but without the formality of an IEP meeting is also a good idea. Remember these individuals are busy, so attempt to keep your presentation of the portfolio relevant and concise. I usually highlight over the main points of the portfolio and provide them with copies that they can take with them and go over later.
Again dependent upon your child’s functional ability, you should aim to include them in the meeting as well. I allow my youngest to participate in his because he can observe and provide input should he so choose to do so, and I also see this as an opportunity for him to get his first glimpses at self-advocacy. My oldest is on the severe end of the spectrum and I do my best to have him at the meetings, but most often he would much rather be elsewhere and doesn’t provide any input whatsoever. He would much rather remain in class with his peers.
Evaluate your portfolio.
Go over your work. Make sure it is what you want, gets your message across, and provides all the information you wanted it to provide. Ensure it is organized neatly, the font is clear and easy to read, photos are relevant to the purpose of the portfolio, and that information is not shared more than once. One of the more important pieces of information is that your portfolio should stand on its own, that it be self-explanatory.
That’s it. That sounds like quite a bit of work, and in some ways, it is, but it gets much easier over time. A lot of what is provided can carry over into the next year’s profile, such as some of the medical information. I am currently working on my kiddo’s profiles as my previous ones from previous years was lost and I have to start all over again (bummer, I know). This time around I’m saving a copy everywhere, usb, cd-r, desktop, documents folder, and emailing it to myself. I hope that I have helped at least one person out with this information. In my experience, the staff loves the portfolio. It provides them with invaluable information about their student they wouldn’t get from an IEP, it’s a reference they can refer to whenever they need to, and it helps foster a more positive relationship between parent and teacher.
Hope you enjoyed this little nugget of goodness…if so, please share it with others.
*If you would like the original source of this material, I believe it can be found by visiting www.partnerstx.org, the booklet that this information was derived from is entitled The IEP & Beyond: Back to School Special Edition and was written by Brenda Nelson, PRN Leadership Specialist…her article was titled, “Thinking Beyond the IEP: A Student Introduction Portfolio” I am unsure if you can find this booklet online, but with the information provided, it’s worth a looksee.
If you would like to contact them to see if you can request a copy of this booklet, you can do so via telephone 409-898-4684; or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The guidelines for developing a student portfolio were developed by Texas Project First; and the evaluation tool was developed by Family to Family of Houston.