How to Write a Parental Concerns Letter for your IEP

Have you written a “Parental Concerns” letter?

No? Why Not???

This is one of the most underutilized sections in the IEP!

It is your right to submit your concerns as the parent of a child with an IEP, and have it placed into that IEP under the heading of “Parental Concerns,” or sometimes it’s listed as “Parent Input.” And yet so many times I hear parents say they didn’t know they had that right.

I’ll admit, it is very hard to find this portion of the IEP, as it is often the smallest section possible and is easily overlooked. OR, there may be a few well chosen snippets of your concerns that were picked out of the meeting by the case manager.

What does the IDEA say about including the parents input into the IEP? Well it’s not a lot, but it IS there; listed under Other Methods To Ensure Parent Participation (300.322(c)) “Parents are free to provide input into their child’s IEP through a written request if they so choose.”

Why is the Parents Concerns letter so important?

First, understand that you NEED to do this EVERYtime you go through the IEP process, or review.

Remember that the IEP is based on the “NEEDS” of the child. It is “NEEDS” driven. NOT diagnosis driven. So your child gets evaluated to determine the areas of need, then goals are drawn up based upon those needs. The strategies and services that they then receive are based upon the goals, which are based upon the needs. All of the child’s areas of need are listed in the “Present Levels” section, also known as the PLOP or PLAAP, adn this drives the IEP. Now, do you know what else is in that section of the IEP? The PARENTAL CONCERNS! (Note: this may be slightly different and vary from state to state).

Therefore, do you understand…. this “parental Concerns” section ALSO helps drive the goals & services in the IEP. It is your right to submit one, and it MUST be included!

How long should my “Parental Concerns” letter be?

The short answer is…. As long as it needs to be. Now, some districts may tell you that it can not be any longer than 200 words. That is NOT TRUE! They may have a computer program for IEP formulation that only allows for 200 words, but that does not mean you have to limit your concerns. It simply means they need to find another way to include your concerns IN THEIR ENTIRETY into the IEP as you request. Of course that doesn’t mean you should write a 12 page dissertation about your child either. Be clear and concise, leave out emotional statements or accusatory language targeting any staff or service.

Here’s what you should include in your “Parental Concerns.”

Everything that “needs” to be there. Remember, this will drive goals and services. What are your main concerns about your child? Be concise. Be focused. Be child centered.

  • areas of need that the school identified and you agree with
  • areas of need that have not been identified that you wish to include
  • strategies that work for your child
  • strategies that feel do not work
  • behavior concerns
  • any medical or food allergies you are concerned or feel the staff needs to know
  • social and emotional struggles your child may have. ie. anxiety or fidgety do to ADHD etc…

When do you send a “Parental Concerns” letter?

I recommend that you send it in when you are responding to the letter of notification for your next meeting. “Yes, I can attend the meeting on Thursday, date, time. Here is my list of parental concerns that I wish to discuss with the team and be included in their entirety within the IEP.”

You can follow that up with, “I will bring a hard copy to the meeting,” or “I will email a copy for input into the IEP.”

For further assistance with Special Education and the IEP process’

Contact IEP Coach/Advocate Linda by calling (973) 534-3402

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What’s SEPAG?

Special Education Parent Advisory Groups: are required for all school districts in New Jersey. The purpose of these groups is to provide opportunities for parents and community members to offer input to their districts on critical issues relating to students with disabilities.

New Jersey Administrative Code 6A:14-1.2(h) states that:

Each board of education shall ensure that a special education parent advisory group is in place in the district to provide input to the district on issues concerning students with disabilities. Developing & Implementing an Effective SEPAG Understanding

The Purpose

• To provide direct input on the policies, programs and practices that impact services and supports for children with disabilities and their families.

• To increase the involvement of families of children with special needs in making recommendations on special education policy.

• To advise on matters that pertain to the education, health and safety of children with special needs.

• To advise on unmet needs of children with disabilities. Keeping the Focus on Input

• Keep a policy focus: make sure the SEPAG keeps its focus on providing input on special education policy issues.

• A SEPAG is not a “support group” or a place for a “gripe session”.

• Avoid getting bogged down in busy work; such as doing carnivals, information fairs, fund raising, and organizing speakers

. • There may be both a parent advisory group and a support group in a district.

Parent Involvement in building membership through Special Education:board-meeting

• A majority of members should be parents or caregivers of children receiving special education services.

• Be sure to include families of children in out-of-district placements.

• Include students receiving special education services or former recipients as members

. • Conduct outreach to ensure that the parent advisory group is representative of the special education services received, placements, programs, ages, disabilities, schools attended and racial, ethnic and gender diversity. Providing input on Systemic Issues

• District policies and procedures

• Inclusion/ LRE • Funding issues

• Transition

• Staffing and professional development needs

• Related services

• Facility issues; such as accessibility, location of programs

• Extended school year Holding Productive Meetings

• Announce meeting dates and agenda items early enough to give interested parties an opportunity to plan to attend

• Create opportunities for active participation

• Build agendas with input from multiple people

• Use “people first” language in reference to individuals with disabilities

• Keep minutes of all meetings and make minutes available on request

• Hold regular meetings at least quarterly

• Start and end meetings on time

• As a group, agree on the process for making decisions developing Effective Practices

• New member orientation

• Established by-laws for the group’s operations

• Annual meeting to set goals and priorities

• Provide interpreters and other necessary services as needed

• Develop close working relationship with other district groups • A report of group activities and suggestions should be presented to the local Board of Education, at least annually