Keeping It Objective – writing accurate anecdotal data & accident reports

Categories: Resources

If you are in this field you have likely had to deal with some students aggression (read this post about dealing with aggression). Not only can this be physically painful it tends to really mess with your teacher mojo. Your self confidence is shot. You feel beaten down – mentally and physically. Wine becomes your new best friend. I’ve been there. I in and out of that state right now. But to throw salt on the wound comes the paperwork this brings. Because you know, your day wasn’t quite difficult enough getting hockey style checked into a concrete wall by an 11 year old – so let’s add on the forms. In all seriousness the paperwork is obviously necessary.

It is absolutely essential when you are in this situation that you cover all your bases. 

Fill out each and every necessary accident report, data sheet, and parent letter. You want a paper trail. I hate to sound cynical but sadly in this day and age – you need to cover your butt. There is nothing in the world worse that getting involved in a due process case. But if it comes to that – you want to make sure that you did everything you could and followed protocol at all times.

Assume everything you write could be read by a judge/lawyers if the situation goes due process. 

I know – so cynical. But honestly you’ll be happy you did if anything ever comes to that. In situations of high aggression – you are likely going to be asking the school district for something – whether that’s additional training, a one on one paraprofessional, change of placement, or a more restricted placement. You need to be ready to back up your case.

I spent last week writing several accident reports. I absolutely hate these and this tends to be what I usually forget about. I also take my data, record time, magnitude, and any potential antecedents but those dang accident reports – ugh. I hate them because in my districts – it’s basically an anecdotal account which is what I supremely hate. As I near the end of my ABA Master’s program my deep seeded annoyance with anecdotal data persists. First off – who freaken’ has time to take anecdotal data? I’m lucky to swipe a few tally marks on my data sheet and circle a few functions. And secondly – it’s crazy subjective. Two people can see literally the exact same issue and write completely different accounts. So it dawned on me last week – we really need to strive to make our anecdotal data subjective. This will make it more useful and is less likely to cause an issue later down the road. People can’t argue with facts but they can argue with over-exaggeration and offensive language.


So do your do diligence. You’ll get through it – I promise. Take the extra steps now to make it easier on yourself later!

I felt like these two pictures were appropriate for this post! If you are dealing with a lot of student aggression – you are not alone! 🙂

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  1. Excellent…excellent advice and tips! I always tend to throw in those descriptive adjectives and I need to be mindful of that and limit anecdotals to facts only. Thanks so much for your daily inspiration!

  2. Even though I don’t currently teach in an Autism program, I have always had students on the spectrum in my classes. This issue you wrote about has been an issue off and on over the years. I am pretty good at the subjective language piece of my documentation, because like you, I was once told to write it as if the report will be read in a court of law. What I found, though, was that people who read my reports didn’t necessarily take them seriously, because after all, behavior like this can be expected in my job (that is what a district administrator told me once). With this kind of attitude, I felt like the needs of the student, and our needs as a staff, were not really taken seriously. So I started attaching pictures of the bruises and gathered up ripped-out hair and put them in a baggie and stapled everything to the accident or other reports. Then people took notice and were more receptive to helping me problem solve the situation. Thanks for another great post!

  3. I think you mean objective!

  4. Omigosh how embarrassing!! THANK YOU for catching that! Oops. I have been a little sleep deprived lately (my thesis defense is next Tuesday – eek). Thanks for catching that, Christine!

  5. This post couldn’t have come at a better time! Thank you so much for writing this because I don’t feel so alone! This last week was a heck of a week! Thanks for the words of wisdom of documenting. it is truly helpful.

  6. This is also the time of year when we are all on auto-pilot, at least that is the case for me. Excellent post regardelss and a good reminder. I will include this in my new Paraprofessional handbook. Good luck on your thesis defense!

  7. Will we get any info on your thesis? I bet it’s good! I think you should do even more posts on ABA-maybe with some video tutorials…ya know, in all your free time 🙂 It’s just SO lacking in public schools. I’m shocked how few special ed professionals have even heard of it.

  8. Thank YOU for reading Amy 🙂

  9. Great points – some times we do need to go to great lengths to prove our points. Sadly that is our reality! Thanks for sharing.

  10. So glad it is helpful for you Monica! Hope your last week was better 🙂


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