How to Write IEP Parent Concerns.

I’m going to wag my finger at you–from this day forward, you do a Parent Concerns Letter 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–the parent concerns letter.

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.

iep parent concerns

Where is the Parent Concerns Letter mentioned in IDEA?

Ah, so glad you asked. Actually, IDEA itself does not mention the Parent Concerns Letter. However, it mentions parent participation many times. And, whenever IDEA is reauthorized, the committee that wrote the laws sends out a long explanation addendum. It’s basically a guidance piece on “what we mean by this”as far as how IDEA was written. In writing statutes and laws, you cannot explain every little detail as part of the law.

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If you wish to see the one for IDEA, you can find it here. Be forewarned, it’s 307 pages! But take a look at this little gem found on page 140.

So, here you go, a snippet:

parent concerns in IDEA

The Importance of IEP Parent Concerns

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 IEP evaluations to determine areas of need. IEP 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.

Do you know what else is in the Present Levels section of the IEP? Parent concerns. {please note: This is for PA. Check your state’s form to see where the Parent Concerns go.}

Get it? Your parent concerns will help drive the goals and services. It is your right to submit this. It MUST be included.

parent concerns in IDEA text description information

How long can the Parental Concerns Letter 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 workaround for that. They need to figure out something else because it 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?

There are two main occasions when you would write a parent concerns letter.

  1. When you are RSVP’ing to the invitation to the annual IEP meeting.
  2. When you have concerns and wish to request an IEP meeting.

I 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 discuss.”

Or, “I have some concerns and would like to request an IEP meeting to discuss them.”

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.

You also would use this format if you are requesting an IEP meeting.

What is most important is that ALL of your parent concerns are included, in their entirety, in the IEP. What section is less important than their inclusion.

What to include in your Parent Concerns Letter for your IEP.

Everything that needs to be there. Remember, this will drive goals and services. What are your 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 eval
  • 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

How to Write Parent Concerns for an IEP.

  1. 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.
  2. 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 aide or an out of district 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.”
  3. Use a bullet-pointed list. I find it easiest to do a bullet-point list. That format helps me keep track of my thoughts and easier to track during the meeting, if each item got discussed.
  4. Use one of the templates below. I often get asked for a template, but mine is simple. “Dear IEP team leader, I am looking forward to our upcoming IEP meeting. Here are the parent concerns I wish to discuss with the team. I am sending it to you in electronic format so that you can just copy and paste it into the Parent Concerns portion of the IEP. Here they are: (and I just bullet point list them).”

Parent Input Form for IEP

Some schools have a standard form or document that they send to parents to gather their parent input. It may be called a parent input form for IEP or IEP parent input form. IDEA does not address this.

My school sends one out. Yes, I fill it out. I also do a letter. The form may be a good template to address areas you may have not thought of. But you are not limited to only their form. It might make their work easier. The form may be what your school is used to doing. But there is no “we can only accept parent concerns if they are on this form.”

Understanding and Using the PWN.

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 blank NOREP: NOREP notice of recommended education placement

You need to know how to use a PWN, so please read this link.

These are your options when you receive the PWN/NOREP after the IEP meeting.

  • Deem it as incomplete, send it back to them with “And please include XYZ which was also discussed at the meeting.” This hopefully isn’t necessary if you’ve done your After IEP Meeting letter.
  • Agree with it. Check yes.
  • Disagree. Choose one of the options. List your reasons why in a Parent Letter of Attachment.
  • Check to agree and do a “yes, but…” letter. This is to create a paper trail. You’re giving the district a chance to get it right this time, but documenting and leaving the door open for future actions.

The Yes, but…. letter is just that. “Dear School, I am agreeing with the IEP as it is written so as not to further delay my child receiving services. However, I expect to see progress in XYZ areas by {time frame} or I will ask the team to reconvene and discuss other options, such as….”

PWN and Parent Letter of Attachment

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 of 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.

I hope this helps.

IEP Parent Concerns-Examples.

Here are some examples if you need to borrow some wording and phrases.

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.

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