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Re: Writing a letter to Parent
Because there are so many different types of learning disabilities or disorders, the needs of each individual student may be quite different and require different forms of communication. Before writing a letter or making a phone call it is best to consult with your school’s psychologist or learning disabilities teacher to validate and clarify your concerns regarding the possibility of a learning disability. They can also provide advice about specifically what to communicate with the parent regarding this particular student’s learning issues. Then, rather than writing a letter it is usually best to meet with the parents to discuss your concerns and also gain any insights they might have. They may even have had their child tested outside of the school and can provide valuable assessment information. When discussing your concerns (face to face, on the phone, or in a letter) be sure to highlight the child’s strengths as well as his/her difficulties. After all, a true learning disability is characterized by relatively significant cognitive and/or academic “highs” as well as “lows”. So if you are only dealing with academic “lows” the issue may be something other than a learning disability and require a different approach. Whether it is a learning disability or some other issue, by the time you are ready to write a letter, make a phone call, or meet with a parent you should have already attempted some classroom interventions but still have other (probably more intensive) interventions still to offer. It is very important to convey to the parent that you are concerned but also are hopeful and ready to offer or solicit additional support. So be sure to note not only what you have already tried but also what other options are still available to help their child, including the possibility of a special education assessment. If you are already to the point of suggesting a referral for special education evaluation it may be helpful to first consult with someone in that department so that you can accurately describe the referral/assessment process to the parent. If you are meeting with the parent (which would be the best approach) you might want to ask the school psychologist or other special education professional to also attend the meeting. Emphasize to the parent that a special education evaluation would not automatically lead to special education service and that no decisions along those lines would ever be made without their consent. Also note that regardless of the outcome, a special education evaluation would help you to better understand and meet the needs of their child. Again, be sure that your overall message is one of hope rather than despair.