How to Write a Parent Concerns Letter for an IEP
Editor's Note: When you're working with your child's school on her IEP, you have the opportunity to write Parent Concerns that must be attached as part of the IEP document and that the school must address one way or the other. Here's how to write the letter and what to include in it.
I’m going to wag my finger at you: From here on out, you do a Parent Concerns Letters for your IEP. Every. single. time. No more “Well I didn’t know…” or “I didn’t think I had to do one each time….” Now you know. Do one. This is one of the most under-utilized portions of the IEP process.
It is your right to submit one and have your letter, in its entirety, included in the IEP. As a parent, it is also your duty to your child; this is their time, their voice, their opportunity to be heard in the IEP.
Why the Parent Concerns Letter is so important
First, let’s understand why you need to do this every time you go through the IEP process.
Remember that IEPs are based on need. They are needs driven, not diagnosis driven. Your child gets evaluations to determine areas of need. Goals are then drawn up based upon those needs. The strategies and services that your child receives are based upon the goals, which are based upon the needs. No speech needs identified? Then no speech goals, therefore, no speech services. Make sense?
All of your child’s areas of need are listed (or should be) in the Present Levels section of the IEP. It is the Present Levels section (also known as PLOP or PLAAP) that drives the IEP.
You know what else is in the Present Levels section of the IEP? Parent concerns.
Get it? Your parent concerns will help drive the goals and services. It is your right to submit this. It must be included.
How long can the Parental Concerns on the IEP be?
They can be as long as they need to be. I just heard from a mom on Saturday that her district told her that it had to be 200 words or less. No, that is not the case. They may have a computer program that limits that section to just 200 words, but they will have to find a work-around for that. They need to figure out something else because the letter can be as long as it needs to be. Keep in mind, again, if it would get to the level of Due Process, you want to appear reasonable. So don’t send in a 37-page document either. Be clear and concise, but list what you want to list.
When do I send the Parent Concerns letter?
I always recommend that you send it in when you are RSVP’ing to the meeting. “Yes, I can make that meeting time. Here is the list of Parent Concerns that I have, that I wish to be discussed.”
Remember, it’s a lot to think about a whole year when you sit down to write one letter. Make sure you are using the IEP organizer to stay on top of things all year long.
What should you include in your Parent Concerns Letter for your IEP?
Everything that needs to be there. Remember, this will drive goals and services. What are you main concerns about your child? Be concise, be thorough. Stay child focused. For example, do not say something like “The teacher is absent all the time.” Instead, use “I am concerned that with my son’s difficulties with transitions, the constantly changing staff does not allow him to progress.” Don’t point out staff faults, just what affects your child.
Ideas of what to include:
- Areas of need that the school identified, that you agree with
- Areas of need not identified, that you wish to include or ask for an evaluation
- Strategies that are working
- Strategies that are not working
- Behavior concerns
- Food/medical concerns
- What you want to ask for
- What data you have (summarize) to support these asks
Bonus tips for a Parent Concerns Letter that ROCKS
Do two. Type it up on your computer and send it via email. At the top of the letter, put something like “I will also send in a signed hard copy of this letter for my child’s files. However, I wanted you to have an electronic copy so that you can just copy and paste it into the Parent Concerns section of the IEP.” That makes it crystal clear to them that this is your Parent Concerns Letter and that you expect to see it, in its entirety, in the IEP.
No “Gotcha!” or surprises. You have nothing to gain by waiting until the IEP meeting to surprise them with a request for a 1:1 or a private placement. If you have the data now, bring it up. “Also, at this meeting, I wish to discuss whether or not the team feels that my son’s needs can be met at this placement. Please ensure that there is an LEA present at this meeting who has the ability to make this decision, should that be what the team decides.”
I find it easiest to do a bullet-point list. That format helps me keep track of my thoughts and easier to track during meeting, if each item got discussed.
Ok, so jumping ahead a bit. You sent in your parental concerns. You had an IEP meeting and now you are presented with a NOREP/PWN. (Pennsylvania calls the PWN a NOREP) Here is a NOREP: NOREP notice of recommended education placement
If you see at the back, you are presented with options such as approve, disapprove, request a meeting. When you receive and sign your NOREP is when you do your parent letter of attachment. For the families I work with, the most common scenario is that we are approving the NOREP, but adding sort of a “Yes, but….” type of letter. What letter you attach depends on what box you are checking. Our letter usually contains the items we conceded during the meeting process. This way, it is a part of the permanent record that this has been a concern for us. And, if your district has refused to even consider some of your requests or concerns, or neglected to put them in the IEP, you need to note that as part of your Parent Letter of Attachment. Legally, they can’t actually refuse to consider your ideas, but if that’s not a battle you wish to fight, you can still get it on the record.
When you do your parent letter of attachment, make sure it is on the signature page of the NOREP. Sometimes, they get “lost” when done as an attachment.
What I do
- Type up my concerns on my computer and print.
- Photocopy my concerns on to the signature page of the NOREP, then sign it.
- Then it can’t get lost without them losing the NOREP.
So you will need to be concise because at most, you’ll have the back (blank) page of the NOREP and maybe a half page on the signature side. You can also hand write your parent letter of attachment on to the NOREP. I’ve seen that done lots, too.
When refuting something, you want to use language that they are more likely to respond to. I have done the IEP worksheet, which contains the six principles of special education. If you are disagreeing with something, the reason why you’re disagreeing should fit into one of the categories: IEP worksheet with 6 principles of special education
I hope this helps. If you have any other questions, please join our Facebook group!
Author’s note: A reminder that NOREP is a term we use here in PA. Other states and IDEA refer to it as PWN (Prior Written Notice) or may have their own state-specific term. For us, it is the document that you get that seals the deal, when you agree or disagree to the IEP, placement and all the services.
Lisa Lightner is a Chester County, PA mom of two. This post was adapted from the blog A Day in Our Shoes, which she co-authors. It provides support, resources and advocacy services for parents of children with special needs.