If you have a child with autism, you’re no stranger to forms. You’ve probably memorized more than your fair share of rote family details. At a certain point, you might question the value of all that paperwork. As a provider of education and ABA, I am often asked this question by families. They are frustrated by the seemingly endless stream of forms to complete. This frustration is understandable! Here are some reasons why that boring paperwork is worth your time.
1. It helps providers make sure you have all the resources you need. Intake paperwork often poses boilerplate questions to every new family. These questions serve an important purpose though. They let your provider know what services you need that they may need to refer you out for. They may have a resource list compiled to help you find a specialist in your community. Different needs may be best served by different providers.
2. It helps providers serve your child better. Providers ask a lot of questions at the beginning of services. This is because they are using the information you provide to adjust their methods to fit your child. The more information you provide, the better your provider can individualize services. Don’t be afraid to be too wordy. But, don’t feel like you have to include long answers. Sometimes a short, succinct answer will be more than enough. This can be especially true if you’ve had a lot of practice answering these types of questions already!
3. It helps keep you and your child safe (in two key ways). First, your providers must meet certain standards set by their regulating authority. This could be your state department of health. It could be the office of public education. It could be a certifying board in your provider’s field. Your provider demonstrates many of these standards in their patient records. Second, your provider will likely ask for more safety information than emergency contacts. This helps them quickly respond if an emergency happens during services. For example, for telehealth, they will want to know the hospital closest to your home.
4. It keeps your information up to date. The upside to filling and refilling out paperwork often is that your information is less likely to become outdated. This is important for basic information like email addresses and phone numbers. It is also important for information like allergies and medications. Updated reports from other providers may impact updates to treatment.
If you’re struggling to find time to complete excessive amounts of paperwork, you are not alone. Ask your provider if there are ways to merge the information, but don’t be surprised if that is not an option. It is often a rule that each form be completed by the family. Your provider may not have control over these requirements. Another strategy is to set up a meeting with your provider or someone from their office to fill out the paperwork together.
You may be asked for documents from somewhere else, like your pediatrician. If so, it can be helpful to give your provider an update. For example, let them know you have reached out to your pediatrician and you’re waiting on the response. This way your provider knows the paperwork is in process, even if they don’t receive it right away.
Courtney Gutierrez, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA Courtney is a behavior analyst, educator, and writer in the Pacific Northwest. She has over fifteen years of experience in the field of autism services, and over ten years of master’s level experience in classroom teaching and ABA therapy. Her areas of expertise include infant and toddler development, parent coaching, ABA clinical leadership and training, P-12 special education, and case consultation for children and young adults with autism and other special needs. Courtney lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.