Tracking Your Progress – Worth It?

In the last year, there have been two agencies in our lives that ask me to log various aspects of my son’s being. These are agencies that I respect, enjoy, appreciate, and admire -but over the matter of logging, we are at sufficient odds that I eventually declined services with one, and am likely to do so soon with the other.

My son is diagnosed with autism and with “severe non-verbal learning disorder”, among other things. I totally get it that he is deserving of all the supports available to him, and I so appreciate those that have clearly made all the difference for him. The question is, “What constitutes support?” Or, more relevantly, “Is there a line at which ‘support’ becomes ‘a burden’?” Sadly, the answer is often, “Yes.”

Can logging be valuable? Absolutely! Keeping written notes as to one’s challenges -and then progress- in any given area has definitely helped us at various points in our journey. When we were very early in our journey with dense nutrition, daily logging was a pain, but it really helped us quantify my son’s progress and also pinpoint exactly which foods were problematic for him. Did we log daily for the entire two-and-a-half years we were on our healing program? No. Did my son’s behaviour, physical growth, tooth enamel, sleep, and iron levels all show tremendous improvements anyway? YES!

Logging in and of itself does not, of course, resolve symptoms.

And sometimes, we can implement strategies that work so fast we don’t even have time to log them! Such was the case when we implemented EMDR. For my son’s profuse, nightly bedwetting, we had tried (and logged): dietary changes, cooler sleep space, warmer sleep space, alarms, waking him in the night, ending liquids in the late afternoon, and more. Removing oxalates and following the program presented in a book called Dry All Night both brought log-able changes, yes. But two sessions of EMDR -one week apart- eliminated the bedwetting altogether.

Do I wish I had painstakingly logged his head-bashing, non-speaking, and shrieking, looking for small improvements encouraged by little rewards along the way? Or am I glad I instead implemented a solution that resolved all but the bedwetting, and then a second solution that resolved even that?

Logging is a tool that is relevant for short periods of time. But it must be used with discretion: it can truly be a burden for families already overwhelmed with so much to do in terms of supporting their child, especially one with special needs. The goal should not be fastidious record-keeping of your child’s quirks and changes. The goal is healing and/or happiness. If there’s a fast, simple way to achieve health and well-being, I will take that route -even if I don’t end up with a stack of data to prove what worked.

Another place logging rocked for us was with sleep. Long before we learned about diet, I read the beginning of the book No Cry Sleep Solution. It asked us to log. I did, and was surprised to find my son was waking far more often than I even realized he was -a good 17 times in a single night. Yes, logging can give us clear and accurate information about what’s really happening, and which of our subsequent steps are actually helping. (I was too tired to follow the rest of the NCSS program, but changing his diet resolved his sleep disturbances the very first night, so it was all good.)

There’s a point where I call it a day. Does my logging 20 aspects of my son’s homeschooling every single weekday help him learn better? Faster? More easily? More? Nope. It just satisfies the BC government, which will then agree to continue funneling $17000/year to the agency, a very small portion of which will subsequently benefit my son. The question becomes: “Would not logging benefit my son more? i.e., If I were not spending 1-2 hours per day observing, tracking, and recording his activities and responses, wouldn’t we be able to hike more? Cook heartier meals? Plant more pea seeds?”

And that’s where I question the value of some logging. Recording my son’s early dietary changes benefited him enormously. In the case of logging homeschooling details, I’m not seeing the benefit to him -indeed, I am seeing detriment. And in such cases, I often make the difficult decision of letting a “free resource” go.

My conclusion? If logging brings direct benefit to you or a person in your care, log as efficiently as possible and for as brief a period as possible. For example, log your food, baths, and bowel movements in your first month of SCD/GAPS/paleo. And then, if you’re doing pretty darned well, release the logging. Trade it in for a gentle walk in the park. A swing on the swing set. A cup of herbal tea. A conversation with a friend. An afternoon gazing up at the clouds. Your health and, yes, your intellect will thank you for it!

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4 Replies to “Tracking Your Progress – Worth It?”

  1. Wow! As a professional educator, I’m awed, again, at how amazingly you articulate understanding of concepts related to health and wellness (mental, physical and emotional) and, ultimately, to educating children! I agree totally with your counsel!

  2. Hi Baden,
    I’ve been recording mine and my husband’s Paleo/GAPS journey since last January. It’s been very tedious to write that much. I started making short cuts. For example I’d write a detailed description of what we were eating and then for the next several weeks or month, I’d only write when something was outside of that typical frame. Or I’d just write when something new was added or subtracted. Another thing I’ve done is when a symptom stays the same for days or even weeks, do I need to write it every day? or just when it changes. That helped a lot in cutting down on time spent and amount written.

    I think one thing that is really helpful about meticulously recording a lot of details is if you’ve never observed yourself objectively. Keeping meticulous records can show you where you “think” you know things about your body, symptoms and your practices, when you might not be as accurate as you thought. But once you get a reality check through tracking, maybe you can let go of doing so much recording. So I think it’s valuable as a training in being more objective and really paying attention to your experiences.

  3. Gel, so well said!!! And thanks for sharing with all of us the details of how you balance the tracking with short cuts to still achieve optimal results. Excellent stuff!

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