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How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists

I vividly remember the first time I started documenting Sunshine's behaviors for her developmental pediatrician to read. 

Each episode was written in detail in a notebook. The doctor dropped the book down on her lap, looking at me.

"I had no idea behaviors were this bad."

This documentation led to a huge influx of support from professionals and specialists. But the approach I was using to document wasn't one I could sustain. It was then that the doctor began to teach me how to document necessary details in short form.

Over the years as we've gone through multiple situations with schools, psychiatric wards, residential facilities, law enforcement etc. we've perfected the documentation process.

Today I'm excited to teach you how to document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists in a way that helps you and your child receive the care and support you need.

Warning: This post contains information about behaviors at home and in residential care, related to Reactive Attachment Disorder, Bipolar, Depressions, Mania, Psychosis and Autism Spectrum Disorder and may be triggering to some.

How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists

How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists

Why document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?

In order for professionals and specialists to provide the support your family needs, they need to understand exactly what's going on. 

Diagnoses are based off of observation AND documentation. The more documentation you have the more accurate the diagnosis will be.

You as the caregiver are not going to remember all of the details when it comes time for an appointment. 

And even if you do, that doesn't mean you'll have the time or be able to report, especially if you're the only adult in the room attending to the child with disabilities.

Documentation shows that you are putting forth effort to understand your child and are willing to do the work to make necessary changes. This is VERY important.

As you find patterns, you can ask very specific and important questions. You can implement a new plan that may work better and decrease unsafe behaviors.

Documenting your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists allows them to give you feedback about what the most appropriate course of action may be when helping your child. 

At times, as caregivers in isolation, we may not understand the severity of what we're experiencing, until we share all of the details. In those times, we may not be able to make extremely difficult decisions on our own.

With documentation, professionals and specialists can help with those difficult decisions.

When do you document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?

If you are concerned about your child's behaviors, then it's time to document them. Whether your first point of contact is a pediatrician, a therapist, or educator, in order to help you help your child, they need to understand what's going on and how often it's occurring. 

If your child is seeing a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, or psychiatrist, providing documentation of behaviors is one of the single most important things you can do to to receive the help and support you need for your family.

If your child has an IEP and/or attends a school specific to their disability, documenting behaviors at home can be very helpful, especially when comparing behaviors at home and during a different time of day.

If you're having run ins with law enforcement over your child's behaviors or are fearful that might happen, it's time to document all that you can.

If you're just trying to understand the "why" behind behaviors, it's a good time to document.

If you're wondering about behavioral patterns, it's time to document.

If you're considering a medication or medication change, documenting behaviors is crucial.

There's honestly not a time when documenting behaviors won't be helpful. 

As one passionate about Montessori, I document as part of my observation. It always helps.

What types of documentation about your child's behaviors help professionals and specialists?

There are many forms of documentation that are helpful to professionals, specialists, and law enforcement.
At first a simple composition notebook where pages can't be torn out may do the trick, if behaviors are minimal or don't occur often.

Video footage of an incident is helpful, especially as it shows your response to the behavior. 

Again this works well if behaviors don't occur too often. Once they do, you're looking at a set up that is more complicated like a security system.

Charting the ABCs of Behavioral Analysis

Charting the ABCs of Behavioral Analysis can be extremely helpful when looking to understand the why behind behaviors and how you might tweak things as a parent in your response to behaviors.

But, my favorite type of documentation involves a monthly calendar, where I can simply write down the important information I need. Everything is in one place to observe patterns. 

Professionals and specialists tend to enjoy these most as well, especially since they cover an extended period of time in a way that's easy to view.

What do you use to document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?

As mentioned above, you can simply use a notebook or phone camera, but to create my favorite type of documentation, you need a monthly calendar.

I prefer to create a monthly calendar on the computer so I can change the font size depending on the day and how many behaviors there are. 

It's easier to color code things and add little notes in the empty boxes that I want to remember using a computer as well. Though, I am one to love a set of colored pens too. Lol.

You may also want clocks easily accessible if you're documenting specific times and durations of behaviors.

How do you document your child's behaviors for professionals and specialists?

Now that you understand the whys, when's, and what's, it's time to address the how.

Time of Behavior

The first important piece of documentation you need is the time of the behavior. You can also record how long the behavior lasts.

At home, I don't wear a watch. It's too unsafe to do so. When behaviors occur, I may or may not be holding my phone. Depending on the behaviors, I may not be able to hold my phone if I wanted to.

When Sunshine is home, I usually document time in increments of morning (wake up to noon), afternoon (noon to 4 PM) and evening (4 PM to bedtime). I may also include if a behavior was before or after a meal.

In Sunshine's residential treatment center, staff document behaviors specifically by time. They are kind enough to send this documentation to me.  I create my calendar and send it back to them for all of us to analyze. (Their documentation is in the form of lists, which is extremely hard to follow.)

Name of Behavior

The second most important piece of documentation is the name of the behavior. Depending on how many behaviors you're trying to track, will depend on how many names you'll want to include.

When Sunshine is at home, we only track aggressions and rank them: mild, medium, or severe. In her residential treatment center, many other behaviors are tracked.

Below I have included Sunshine's behavioral calendar from May of 2022 with the data that the residential facility provided me. (You can open the pdf with the link at the bottom of this post.) 

You can see how these times and behaviors are displayed.

Please note I am choosing to share this information as an example of what a calendar may look like with a child who suffers from Reactive Attachment Disorder, a mood disorder, autism, ADHD and more.

Sunshine is an incredible kid. These behaviors do not define her.

Sunshine's Behavioral Calendar May 2022

Now that you've seen an example of my calendar, you will also notice other info I like to include.

Important Information that Contributes to Behaviors

On Sunshine's calendar, you will note that she did not receive her Adderall dose on May 12th, (Parents and professionals are not perfect and do make mistakes.) This definitely had an effect on her day. 

May 5th, Sunshine had a visit with us. Understanding how that influenced her behavior that day and the day after is important.

May 2nd and 3rd, behaviors were worse and I do not see a reason for that change in behavior, so I note that by color coding the days orange.

On May 18th and 30th, Sunshine's school schedule was interrupted. It's important to document an increase or decrease in behaviors.

May 30th, Sunshine's depressive episode was so severe that she decided to call 9-1-1 wreaking havoc for everyone at the facility.

Patterns in Behavior

After a week or two, you may start noticing patterns in behaviors. It's important to highlight these patterns. As you document month after month, you may see monthly patterns.

I love to highlight these patterns and show them to professionals. They confirm to me that I'm not losing my mind AND professionals and specialists can help!

On Sunshine's calendar, you'll note that there are patterns in behaviors related to the day of the week, depending on if her preferred one-to-one is with her.

You'll note meal time is a struggle.

When it comes to monthly patterns, you can vividly see when Sunshine is in manic and depressive episodes and how long they last. Her behaviors were so severe that PRNs (medication) had to be given each time to calm her.

Charting these behaviors the way I did and sharing them with her team led to:
  • The psychiatrist increasing mood disorder meds at specific times of day
  • Extra supports being put in at meal time
  • More training for the one-to-one that was with Sunshine when her preferred person isn't there.

Now, to guide you a little bit further, I've included Sunshine's Behavior Calendar for June.

Sunshine's Behavioral Calendar June 2022

You will note a new pattern of behaviors occurs around gym class and outside time. 

Mealtime behaviors improve. 

Sunshine's manic and depressive episodes were a tiny bit more mild with no need for a PRN. The need for a PRN was completely unrelated.

Visits home to Sunshine's family went well, but she did display behaviors the days before and after the visits, which isn't great.

Sunshine really struggled with having a substitute teacher.

Days without her preferred one-to-one are still a struggle, but weekends are better.

Now, why am I sharing all of this with you?

Documentation leads to the most accurate help and support. When you are raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, Autism, mood disorder, ADHD, and/or more, that's extremely important.

Understanding patterns and making changes accordingly can help both you and the child.

Viewing positive changes in behaviors can be so encouraging. If you notice a decline in behaviors, then you know to make an appointment.

Now, if you have a child who is displaying similar behaviors to Sunshine, you need help. You should not be doing this alone. These behaviors are not normal or okay.

Please note, your child is not wrong or bad if you feel the need to document behaviors. They are displaying unsafe behaviors, which affect everyone in the home. That's it. The goal is to have the unsafe behaviors diminish and eventually stop. 

Sunshine is an amazing girl. When she is good, she is incredible. Genetically, she received the raw end of the deal, and then trauma occurred, which was not her fault. I have faith that over time, most likely a long time, she can get better.

Documentation has helped all of us so much throughout our journey with her to keep her and everyone around her as safe as possible.

For those whose who want to receive more information and helpful tips regarding behaviors, be sure to sign up for our free newsletter by clicking the link below.

Don't forget to look at Sunshine's behavioral calendars up close by clicking the link below in order to help you make your own.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy the posts below.

Breathing Exercises for Kids with Free Printables How to Create and Use an Emotional Regulation Chart 6 Ways to Help a Family Going Through a Mental Health Emergency Mood Disorder Tips: How to Help a Child through Manic and Depressive Episodes Anger Management for Kids Four Prompts to Encourage Mindfulness in Children 4 Steps to Managing Aggressive Behaviors One Sure Way to Help Your Child Work Through Emotions Preparing for an appointment with a developmental pediatrician Diagnosis Day The Choice to Medicate Your Special Needs Child

How to Document Your Child's Behaviors for Professionals and Specialists

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