Quick Way to Begin Writing a Letter of Intent
The letter of intent (LOI), though not a legal document, plays a central role in your child’s special needs plan, putting its endless details into personal perspective. Distilling years of family experience, it’s meant to ease a difficult transition by guiding future caregivers, guardians and trustees in the decision-making that will shape a loved one’s life when parents are gone.
Families with special needs can be so overwhelmed by daily challenges that capturing lessons learned doesn’t top their to-do list. It’s also emotional, requiring them to envision a time when their child will be without them. But the LOI is too important to delay. At any time, an unforeseen accident could land you in the hospital, or worse, with others suddenly called upon to assume your responsibilities.
So here’s a less daunting way to begin. Think about what you’d share with another family member if they needed to care for your child for a couple days while you were out of town. What would they need to know to maneuver 48 hours of caregiving? By concentrating on the basics, you’ll construct what I term the “executive summary” of your LOI; a two-page list of bullets that can be consulted when there’s no time to leaf through a notebook.
Begin by imagining what you’d share about any young child: Here’s what she’ll eat. This is what time he goes to bed. Then build on that with the extras required for a child with special needs. At a minimum, this “lean LOI” should include:
- Daily routine.
- Best ways to communicate with the child.
- How to manage behaviors.
- Hot button words to avoid.
- Names and contact information for teachers, aides, bus driver, social service providers and employer.
- Medical information including names and contact information for doctors and therapists, lists of medications and location of prescriptions and pharmacy.
- Health insurance coverage.
Make this a family affair. Bring everyone together around the kitchen table, including the child with special needs, if they are able to participate. Let the conversation flow freely and just start taking notes; you can fine-tune later. Siblings have a different perspective from parents and are often able to think of important details that mom and dad would overlook.
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