Letters of Intent or Instruction for Parents of Special Needs Children

Trisha Miller  | 

As the parent of a special needs child, you may have heard about something called a “letter of intent.” Today, we’re here to talk about exactly what it is and how it can help you and your child with special needs.

A letter of intent is a very important piece of paperwork for parents with special needs children, and it needs to include some very particular information. We will go over everything your letter should include in detail, and in what ways you might want to customize your letter for your child.

What Is a Letter of Intent?

A letter of intent is a form that can be used by any individual to support them in many areas of life. It’s a versatile document that can be used to make any person’s wants/needs clear in situations involving legalities, need to know business information, important employment circumstances, end of life and medical treatment wishes, etc.

As we discuss a letter of intention today, we’re going to direct it toward you, as the parent of a special needs child. As such, this particular letter contains information about how your child should be cared for if/when you are unable to. If your child ever needs care that won’t be personally given by yourself, you have the right as their parental guardian to ensure that the assistance they receive aligns with the standard of care you strive for. This letter is meant to detail your expectations when it comes to caring for your child.

Why Do Parents of Special Needs Children Need a Letter of Intent?

It’s important to think about who you might want to care for your child if you are ever unable to. You may have already decided on a family member or other loved one that you can trust. However, even if they have been involved in the child’s life, they don’t know your child and their needs to the extent that you do. A letter of intent is an amazing tool to give you peace of mind knowing that your child will be taken care of the way that you know they need to be. In addition, it will be a much needed guide for a new caregiver settling into their new role.

What To Put in Your Letter of Intent

Instructions for Caregivers

Medical History

This letter can contain any information you would like, but should be quite explicit about many areas of your child’s life that are going to need attention. For example, it’s important to detail your child’s medical history and their background. Even close family members most likely don’t know every detail of your child’s special needs lifestyle that they should be aware of. As such, a detailed history of your child’s medical needs and a background detailing their particular circumstances is imperative.

Life Events

In addition, there will likely be life events from your own past and your child’s history that are also important to note. It’s important that any caregiver of your child understands what life events may have influenced you and your child in a big way. It also helps them to have a deeper emotional connection with your child and to the things they have experienced. This can include things like deaths in the family, marriages, and births.

Schooling, Educational, and Employment Goals

Whether your child is in school or not, it’s a good idea to explain what type of schooling they have received, and if they need/want additional schooling. If they have attended special needs classes or other courses that have been particularly helpful for them, it’s a good idea to let the caregiver know. What’s more, let them know what kinds of aspirations your child has as far as employment is concerned. The caregiver should know what type of work are your child is interested in and how much work can they realistically handle on a weekly basis.

Supplemental Aid

You can elect for your chosen caregiver to be assigned as a trustee in charge of your child’s finances (should your child need it). If that is the case, they will be in charge of dispersing any monthly benefits your child gets from the government or any other fund (such as a special needs trust fund or other savings account). This form is not the correct place to assign a trustee, but it is a good way to explain to your caregiver what types of supplemental benefits your child will be receiving so that they can help your them to be as prepared and comfortable as possible. If your caregiver is not assigned as the trustee, it’s important that they understand what kind of financial needs your special needs child might have.

Living Arrangements

Every living situation is completely different. Some special needs individuals will end up living completely independently or semi-independently. Others may prefer to live with family members and in a certain city or area. It’s a smart idea to let your caregiver know about these types of requirements and preferences for your child so that they can prepare ahead of time if arrangements need to be made.

Religious Preferences

If your child has a very strict preference about what type of religion they practice, you should let the caregiver know. The same goes for if they prefer to not be around religious practices. Putting your child in a familiar and comfortable religious atmosphere will help the transition be that much easier.

Behavioral Information

You know your child better than anyone, so you’ll be able to tell the caregiver what kind of behavior your child exhibits regularly. They might want to be aware of certain social situations or stressful interactions that could make things harder for your child. Let the caregiver know what kinds of interactions your child prefers and under what circumstances they are most comfortable. This way, your child won’t be thrust into a situation that they are completely unfamiliar with, which could be quite jarring and upsetting.

Daily Schedule

Everyone has a particular schedule that they prefer to follow each day. If you’ve found one that works well for your child, detail it in your letter for the caregiver. This could include an hourly structured breakdown of how they like to do things, or it could simply include things like food preferences, regular activities that you do together, their favorite places to visit, etc. Anything that could be considered part of a routine is important for the caregiver to be aware of.

Instructions for Other Family

Depending on who your trustee and caregiver are, you may need to put information about your family history in your letter as well. If they are related to you, of course, they might already know everything they need to about your family. However, if they don’t, they should know where family members live and what type of relationship your child has with them.

Furthermore, you may wish to add information regarding final arrangements for yourself and/or your child in the letter as well. If you have specific requests or needs regarding funeral arrangements, this letter is a good place to put them. Again, your caregiver may be a good person to take care of these requirements or you might feel more comfortable addressing this section of the letter to a certain family member or other loved one.

Getting Help With Your Letter of Intent

It’s completely up to you whether or not you might want to contact a lawyer in regards to your letter of intent. It’s certainly not required, but if you have sensitive information that needs to be worded in a very delicate manner, it might be a good idea to ask a lawyer to help you set things up. If you feel that you’re up to the task on your own, you can always ask friends and family for suggestions on what needs to go in the letter. In the end, it’s your decision and this letter’s purpose is to give you assurance that your child will be well looked after if you are ever unable to, so don’t be afraid to add in anything of importance to you.

Special Needs Letter of Intent Templates

There are plenty of letter of intent templates across the web made especially for parents of special needs children. Just make sure that you find one that helps you include all of the crucial information that you need to have documented in the letter. You should be able to customize your letter exactly the way that you want to. If you are ever concerned about your wording in regards to certain legalities, it might be a good idea to ask a lawyer for advice about your letter layout. You should also be aware, when you’re looking for templates online, you may needs to specify “special needs letter of intent” as there are many other legal letter of intent forms that exist on the web.

Now that you have some ideas about how to get your letter of intent started, you can begin to gather your thoughts and compile them in whatever way you would like. Writing a letter of intent isn’t always an easy task, so it’s important to take breaks every once and a while and come back to it a little bit later if you need to. In addition, once you have your letter finished, it’s a good idea to revisit the letter every year or so if you can. You may see some information that is now out of date or you may spot an area that needs further clarification. It’s always a good idea to revise and edit your letter every so often. Although it is a large task, finishing your letter of intent will provide you and your loved one with assurance that they will be taken care of properly no matter what happens.


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Trisha is a writer and blogger from Boise, ID. She is a dedicated vegan, an avid gamer, cat lover, and amateur SFX artist.

This post was updated March 21, 2018. It was originally published March 23, 2018.