Special Needs Planning Basics
It’s difficult to know where to start with writing a letter of intent. The information provided here is designed to give you some ideas of what you might want to include, and we’ve provided a downloadable template to help you get started. Keep in mind that the letter of intent is not considered a legal document. However, it has the advantage of going beyond legal instruments to help caregivers and the courts better understand the person it is established for and their needs as well as your personal care wishes for them. Also, please treat your letter of intent as a “living” document, one you review and update regularly (at least yearly).
Here are some areas to consider when writing your letter of intent. They are not exclusive, but a good place to begin:
- Who prepared the letter of intent, date, and your relationship to the individual.
- Information on family members – mother, father, siblings, important extended family members. Data included for parents (if the individual is a minor) should include full name, address, contact information, social security number, their immediate family details, and any pertinent health and background information (such as previous marriages).
- Key caregiver/contacts. Who will need to be contacted should something happen to you? Examples might be close relatives, service providers, physician, case manager/coordinator, attorney, clergy, school, etc. Include name, relationship, address, and contact information.
- Medical background. Include a full medical history with diagnoses, medications, surgeries, blood type, allergies, immunizations, treatment history, etc. This is a good area to give an objective assessment of their overall health and ability to function and communicate, as well as current and projected care needs.
- Educational history. What schools have they attended and what learning and skills have been acquired? Include schools and dates, as well as any vocational training. Include any documentation you may have such as an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).
- Work history. If applicable, share any volunteer or work positions they have held or aspire to hold in the future.
- If written for your child, include their story and your family story. Tell the reader about your child and your family. What makes them special? What are key strengths and challenges? What does your child love to do? What makes them laugh? What are their fears or concerns? Describe the family dynamic and share key personal details – favorite traditions, stories, or games.
- What does a typical day look like? Include their mastery of daily living skills, their sleep habits, what they love to do, and what might trigger frustration and/or behavioral challenges and how to best address.
- What do they like to eat? Any allergies or dislikes? Are they a picky eater, an emotional eater, a budding chef? Are there any dietary restrictions? How do you manage snacking or a perennial sweet tooth?
- How do they handle challenges or frustration? What are cues to look for? What are effective coping mechanisms?
- Sources of support. Include any financial support, including SSI, and any community programs/services. If there is required reporting or recertification, include that history and key dates.
- Social/recreational activities. List any activities and interests. If applicable, include organizations and key contacts.
- If written for your child, include plans and wishes for the future. When you and your child envision your child’s future, what does it look like? Where will they live? What will relationships look like? What about work or leisure activities? What support will be needed as they mature into adulthood?
The hardest part of drafting a letter of intent is knowing where to start. We hope this has helped provide you with the framework and information you need to begin drafting yours. If you have any questions, we’re here to help.