The bank, elected official, a credit card company, a boss, a fellow employee, or a local handyman have all asked customers and consumers to “put that in writing, please.” For parents of children with disabilities, there are even more reasons to “put that in writing, please.” They might be providing documentation about their child’s disability to strangers. A request for a meeting with a teacher, a change in their child’s program, an adjustment to their child’s testing schedules — each may require a letter. And not all of us are comfortable writing a letter for these requests — it can be intimidating and time consuming. Read more to learn how to become a better advocate for your child through writing.
Letter writing can accomplish several things…
- You can help people who aren’t doctors or nurses understand your child’s needs.
- You can organize your aims and goals for your child’s treatment.
- You can provide action steps for those that will implement your child’s IEP (Individualized Education Program).
- You can document an incident.
- You will have a written record of your requests in case someone misplaces or loses your letter. · You can describe the laws and regulations that apply to your request.
- You can present your hopes and dreams for your child in a clear and concise way, so that everyone understands your wishes. Always keep this in mind: You are your child’s first and best teacher and advocate. Research supports the role of involved parents, and the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) requires your input and full participation.
Before writing a letter, ask yourself why you are writing:
- Are you requesting a medical appointment or a copy of your child’s medical records?
- Are you making an appointment with a specialist or a therapist?
- Do you need to talk to your child’s teacher?
Before starting a letter, jot down a few notes about the student. Refer to him/her by name. Don’t use he, she, his, or hers; it can be confusing to the reader.
Remember: The first letter you write is always a draft.
Everyone makes mistakes or forgets to include something. Read the letter aloud to yourself or to a friend. Ask a friend if they understand the points you make. Most letters are too long. Don’t get bogged down in emotions or blame others. Remember that the reader needs facts and information about your child and the requests you are making. Stories are better told in person, in a face-to-face meeting where you can illustrate your points, not written into a letter. Make your letter stand out; use colored paper.
For more information on letter writing:
- Check this article from Wrightslaw http://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/letters.draft.htm
- Review these samples letters http://oklahomaparentscenter.org/parents/parent-letter-assistance/