How to Advocate For Your Student with an IEP During Remote/Distance Learning: A Sample Letter
By Jenn Choi, Amber Decker, & Rachel Ford of Special Support Services
You have heard this before: “This is a hard time for every student.” You probably feel conflicted about complaining about the reduced quality of education during this time. We believe marginalized communities such as students with disabilities will disproportionately endure greater challenges over their nondisabled peers during the COVID crisis. Our students require one-to-one, face-to-face interaction, and personalized support. While remote learning has limitations, it does not mean that schools cannot make adjustments as needed in order to educate our students.
To help you voice your concerns, we created A SAMPLE LETTER for New York City public school parents that should be customized to fit your child’s situation.
We want you to read all the options below very carefully and follow the DIRECTIONS for writing the letter to advocate for your child.
Note: Here is a link to a word doc of the letter and directions. Here is a link to a google doc of the letter and directions.
- Insert points from Menu A (Problems) and insert points from Menu B (Solutions) only if it applies. Look at the IEP if you need to double check.
- Check out the words in bold because that means you must customize the letter text to fit your situation. Then un-bold the font.
- Go ahead and be more descriptive in stating the problems and solutions. You know your school and your child the best. Add more, even if it is not part of the menus.
- Make it official. If you can, print out your letter, add your signature, scan it, and add the letter as an attachment to your email. Your email should contain all the information from your letter (just copy-paste).
- Please save and/or print out a copy of the Reference Documents hyperlinked in this document. We do not know if those links will disappear but they are official and public right now.
- If something is working, include it! But include it as an example in your proposed solutions section.
- Be sure to get rid of the “Start of Sample Letter” and “End of Sample Letter” titles.
— — START OF SAMPLE LETTER
Address, City, State
Phone | Email
SUBMITTED AS A SIGNED PDF BY EMAIL
School Administrator Name, Title
School Name, School District
Address, City, State
Email Address of Administrator
Re: Name of Student, NYC ID#/OSIS, Date of Birth
Dear School Administrator (Principal) or CSE or CPSE:
Thank you for the work that you are doing to support learning during this difficult time. I appreciate your efforts to implement remote learning, which began citywide on March 23, 2020. I am aware that the New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Department of Education’s Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza has authorized remote learning to continue until further notice. I am also aware that students with IEPS are to have contingency plans known as Special Education Remote Learning Plans here in New York City.
I am writing to you about my child Student Full Name, who is in the Grade ____. I need your support. I ask that we work together to address the implementation of my child’s IEP as it relates to remote learning because my child cannot currently access the curriculum. As you know, my child struggles with (ENTER brief details about your child’s academic, physical, social emotional deficits.)
My child’s current Individualized Education Program (IEP) mandates the following: (Special Education Teacher Delivery i.e., ICT, SETSS, 12:1:1, 8:1:1, 6:1:1 and a Paraprofessional i.e., Full time, part time), and Related Services of (ENTER Related Services OT, PT, SLP, HES, AT, Counseling). It also requires Extended School Year services of (ENTER ESY services).
Furthermore, my child’s IEP calls for a number of Measurable Annual Goals, Modifications, Accommodations, Management Needs, and Progress Reporting. Additionally, it includes a Coordinated Set of Transition Activities with measurable post-secondary goals. (If applicable)
I have not been included in the formation of any remote learning plan, including the creation of any Special Education Remote Learning Plan that was required to be provided to all students with an IEP by April 8, 2020. Moreover, I was not given a copy of my child’s Remote Learning Plan. (if applicable)
The following problems have created enormous barriers and hindered my child’s ability to access and participate in the curriculum:
- Choose from Menu A
- Choose from Menu A
- Choose from Menu A
- Choose your own Problem (optional)
The following are a list of ideas that I would like you and the teachers to consider prior to discussing a new remote learning plan:
- Choose from Menu B
- Choose from Menu B
- Choose from Menu B
- Choose your own Solution (optional)
I appreciate your time in reviewing this matter. I am sure we can both agree that we want to keep Student Name on track in making academic/social/physical progress as much as is reasonably possible during this challenging moment.
I urge you to review my points carefully and invite me to be a part of writing (or revising) the Remote Learning Plan as Chancellor Carranza’s message to our families on April 15, 2020, has reported that remote learning plans “can be adjusted over time… after consultation with you (the parent).” Together, even during this crisis, we can collaborate to have my child appropriately participate in his curriculum to a degree no less than his neurotypical peers.
I am available at the following dates/times to discuss my child’s remote learning plan. I understand that this meeting would not be an IEP meeting.
Please add this letter to my child’s SESIS record at your earliest convenience. Additionally, please confirm receipt of this letter without delay.
— — END OF SAMPLE LETTER
DO NOT INCLUDE THIS SECTION IN YOUR LETTER
PROBLEMS Menu A Pick from the list of problems. Pick only things that match your child’s current IEP services.
- Problems with asynchronous learning in which the student is not being instructed by a live instructional session over video-conferencing platform: My child currently receives (choose one) ICT services, instruction in a Special Class. In asynchronous mode of instruction, checking for understanding can’t occur in real time, and my child’s executive functioning deficits (start work, task persistence, problem solving) are exacerbated, and any social skill goals development is impossible. This method also asks my child to request help for more needed instruction. However, due to my child’s disability, that requirement creates a barrier to my child’s education. Additionally, the particular learning needs of my child can only be addressed in real-time and cannot be provided by asynchronous learning. Thus, I assert this as a lack of provision of his/her/their special education services.
- Problems with synchronous learning with ICT services: My child is entitled to receive ICT services and while co-planning and co-teaching may be taking place, other ICT services that are traditionally delivered such as meeting IEP management needs, occasional 1:1 support, behavioral supports, and other problem-solving measures delivered during class is largely absent and more creative solutions are needed to ensure the level of curriculum participation equal to my child’s non-disabled peers.
- Problems with synchronous learning in SETSS class: I have been unable to see how my child is progressing in these sessions as I have not seen clearly how my child is producing work in this class. (To parent, it is advisable that you watch a SETSS session take place to make a more detailed complaint here.)
- Problems with SETSS services: My child is supposed to receive SETSS _____ times per week but only receives it for ____ times per week. Additionally, during some periods, my child is dismissed early. My child is asked to reach out independently if they need help, which is not something that my child can do. For example, my child is asked to identify the content that they need support in and if my child is unable to identify this, they are left without instruction for the remainder of the session.
- Problems with provision of SETSS: My child has been placed on a truncated schedule from 9:00AM- 12:20 PM and has subsequently experienced a reduction of SETSS services. While my child normally receives 45 minutes of SETSS X times per week, he/she/they now only receives SETSS in 25 minute sessions. That is almost a 50% reduction of SETSS services.
- Problems with synchronous learning in Special Class (choose one: 12:1, 6:1:1, 8:1:1) that are traditionally delivered such as meeting individualized IEP management needs, occasional 1:1 support, individualized behavioral supports, and other problem-solving measures delivered during class is largely absent and more creative solutions are needed to ensure the level of curriculum participation equal to my child’s non-disabled peers.
- Problems with Paraprofessional Services: My child receives paraprofessional support for many reasons including behavioral support, problem-solving, and 1:1 support in work completion and other means of curriculum participation. However, my child only receives X check-ins a day from the paraprofessional, which has further exacerbated my child’s inability to participate in the curriculum.
- Problems with Related Service Provision: According to Chancellor Carranza’s Guidance to Related Service Providers on March 17, 2020, teletherapy was to begin on March 23, 2020, however my child has yet to begin therapy and has missed a total of ____ sessions of ______ therapy or school counseling sessions. [Parents should describe how many services missed or if the service has been inconsistent or reduced.] Please note that my child does have access to a device and high-speed internet.
[To the parent, it is advisable that you watch a session take place to make a more detailed complaint here. ]
- Problems with Related Service Provision: My child has been placed on a truncated schedule from 9:00- 12:20 PM and has subsequently experienced a reduction of therapy services. While my child normally receives 45 minutes of __________ therapy X times a week, my child now only receives therapy in 25 minute sessions. That is almost a 50% reduction of related services.
- Problems with Accessible Curriculum: My child’s disability specifically delays his self-advocacy and executive functioning skills to a significant degree when compared to his non-disabled peers. When pursuit of further needed instruction depends on his/her/their ability to contact the teacher to ask for help as directed to all students in the class, my child has a clear barrier due to his/her/their disability.
- Problems with Accessible Curriculum and IEP goal pursuits: My child’s disability specifically impacts his ability to adjust to change. While I understand that all students need to make adjustments, as Chancellor Carranza wrote to families on April 15, 2020: “not attending school in their physical school building is difficult, but this may be especially so for our students with disabilities” For certain, my child with a disability is struggling as the current situation is creating behaviors that are not conducive to making appropriate progress and reaching their social participation and emotional regulation goals.
- Problems with regression: Due to the last six to eight weeks of not being able to access services recommended on my child’s IEP. My child has regressed socially, physically, and academically. (You can provide examples on how you see your child regressing, i.e. describe things they could do before but can’t now)
- Lack of information regarding assessments: While I understand that state assessments have been canceled, my child and I do not know how and when my child’s testing accommodations will be executed for any assessments during the remainder of the remote learning period. We have not received any information. Leaving this up to student interpretation can cause future problems.
- Lack of Assistive Technology device: My child has an IEP-driven assistive technology device that is at school. We still do not have it at home and thus my child is unable to participate in the curriculum.
SOLUTIONS MENU B Pick the Solutions that could work for your child.
- Regularly scheduled teacher check-ins: NYC DOE Guidance in Response to Covid dated March 17, 2020 includes a teacher’s responsibility such as: “Monitor student participation in activities, grade assignments and assessments, and provide timely feedback on work submitted by students. Communicate with families about student progress.” I request that my child receive regularly scheduled 1:1 check-ins with the teacher to ensure my child is making appropriate progress as part of the required timely feedback. Comments on Google Classroom are appreciated, but not as effective in making appropriate progress when compared to a 1:1 video conference. There should be an official communication and scheduled time, with additional times set up if need be, and parents should be informed of this. Content for check-ins can be decided by student and teacher, but it is appropriate for the teacher to follow up on concerns over student’s performance on submitted work, scaffolding the curriculum based on management needs and pursuit of IEP goals.
- More opportunities for live instruction: NYC DOE Guidance in Response to Covid dated March 17, 2020 includes a list of teacher’s responsibilities such as: “During designated time, to the extent possible, interact with students in real-time to deliver lessons, facilitate discussion, and lead other instructional activities.” I understand that it may be feasible to keep current methods of asynchronous learning to meet other students’ and teachers’ needs however, remote learning began on March 23 and I hope more opportunities for synchronous learning can take place.
- Proactive outreach from teacher: NYC DOE Guidance in Response to Covid dated March 17, 2020 includes a list of teacher’s responsibilities such as: “For students who need additional support or enrichment, identify appropriate activities and assignments to the greatest extent possible.” An appropriate activity that my child can use to effectively participate in the curriculum would be meeting with my child to work on an area of concern or underperformance.
- More direct Paraprofessional Support via phone/video-conferencing: NYC DOE Guidance in Response to Covid dated March 17, 2020 includes a list of paraprofessional responsibilities such as “Support classroom teachers with preparing assignments, content, and activities” and “Communicate and check-in with students as determined by classroom teacher and school leadership.” My child needs the classroom teacher and school leadership to direct my child’s paraprofessional to meet with my child remotely (i.e., via video conference, phone calls) as frequently as necessary to implement behavioral supports, support my child’s participation in the curriculum, set clear expectations, use visual schedules, provide directions and encouragement with assignments, communicate with parents for further support and any other measures that have yet to be tried for my child, who is in dire need of assistance.
- Explicit adaptation guidance on Remote Learning: NYC DOE Guidance in Response to Covid dated March 17, 2020 stated that school counselors can help students demonstrate social maturity and behaviors appropriate to the situation and environment. I would propose that other members of my child’s team also support these endeavors as my child’s struggles with understanding unwritten and implicit expectations that are presumed by my child’s non-disabled peers. My child should receive explicit expectations and encouragement on appropriately adapting to each new transition to be faced during this crisis, including appropriate participation in video conferencing. Additionally, my child’s teachers can communicate unproductive behaviors with me and my child’s related service providers, including his counselor so that we can investigate and mitigate the causes of these behaviors.
- Communication regarding SETSS progress: NYC DOE Guidance in Response to Covid dated March 17, 2020 includes a teacher’s responsibility such as: “Monitor student participation in activities, grade assignments and assessments, and provide timely feedback on work submitted by students. Communicate with families about student progress.” As parents, we want to stay informed on how the SETSS curriculum has changed due to distance learning and be kept abreast of our child’s progress. I am using this letter to ask for such communication.
- Make-Up of Related Services: Every child was due to begin teletherapy on March 23 and my child will be needing make-up services in an agreed upon schedule for the therapy missed. Please contact me to coordinate this.
- Make-Up of SETSS services: My child will be needing make-up SETSS services in an agreed upon schedule for the SETSS time missed. Please contact me to coordinate this.
- Compensatory Education Services: in the form of (ENTER Service), please provide authorization for (ENTER Services)
- Extended School Year Services (ESY): Due to Regression, my child has shown he/she requires Extended School Year Services for OT, SPEECH, Counseling, SETSS, etc.
- Specific communication on Testing Accommodations: Assessments may occur via remote learning platforms and my child and I need to be informed how these accommodations specific to his/her/their IEP should be carried out.
- Assistive Technology Device delivery: Please deliver my child’s assistive technology device as mandated on the IEP as soon as possible.
- 1:1 teaching support: Please deliver one-on-one content support (ie. science, math, history, reading, writing, art, physical education, music, etc.) so that my child can appropriately participate in the curriculum on a consistently scheduled basis. Please contact me to coordinate this.
- NYC DOE Guidance and Expectation in Response for Remote Learning in Response to COVID-19 (03/17/2020)
- Dear DOE Related Service Provider (Guidance document) (3/17/2020)
- Message to Parents of Students with Disabilities (4/15/2020)