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Essentials for Navigating Multiple Systems

How can I get prepared and stay organized?

Personal Organization and Preparation

Being organized will save time and make your journey more efficient. Much time and opportunity is lost if you don't have the proper documents at hand or don't show up at the proper time.

How can I get prepared and stay organized

Things You Can Do

  • Use a datebook or journal to keep track of appointments, medications, reactions, behaviors and successes.
  • Evernote is a cloud storage service that lets you store and access documents, photos, website and more from any device. You can create folders, search by keywords or organize in various ways.
  • Use a calendar or agenda. Some people swear by paper calendars, either in an agenda book or posted on the wall. Others keep their calendars online and on their phones, using apps that sync to all your devices and can be shared by others, such as your significant other or teenage children who need rides and have appointments. Google calendar is one of the most popular free online tools.
  • Keep all records regarding your child in a portable file and bring them with you to every appointment for reference if needed. You should not assume that the appropriate records have already been shared directly from one provider or system to another. As information accumulates, use labeled folders to keep it organized.
  • Pay attention to personal appearance, as it sends a message.
  • Use the "elevator speech" concept - prioritize what you want to get across and condense it to something you could convey during a five-minute elevator ride.
  • At the end of a meeting or consultation, make a list of what you need to do as follow up. Take care of your action items right away if possible. This helps to maintain a sense of urgency and responsiveness on the part of everyone involved with your case.

Things Others Can Do

  • Others can help you sort out papers and paperwork if it becomes overwhelming.
  • If possible, bring someone along to listen and help you recall the details of what happened in a conversation with professionals such as a clinician or social workers.
  • A family member or friend can offer to role-play with you as practice for the real situations when you will be communicating directly with service professionals.

Best Sources for More Guidance

Essentials for Navigating Multiple Systems


In an Emergency, Call 911

Looking for help in
non-emergency situations?

Call 211 or 311 in New York City

Suicide Crisis Hotline
1-800-273-TALK (8255) Toll Free
1-800-799-4889 TTY

Child Abuse & Maltreatment Hotline
1-800-342-3720 Toll Free
1-800-638-5163 TTD/TTY
1-800-342-3720 Video Relay

Developed by the Council on Children and Families and Funded by the Developmental Disabilities Planning Council