How Divorced Parents Can Support Children with Learning Disabilities

Even happily married couples have difficulty effectively supporting their children. In some cases, especially when the parents have a child with a disability, the parents need to be even more united and consistent with their parenting to ensure that their kids can enjoy their childhood and get the best possible chance at life. I've compiled a list of some of the most important tips for separating parents who have a disabled child.

Tips for co-parents with a disabled child:

  • Ensure that both parents have copies of any testing or legal documents that have been drawn up such as 504 plans or IEPs.
  • Both parents must be included in all communication from schools and professionals and invited to attend all meetings.
  • Both parents should attend school meetings involving decisions about their child's education. Participation by phone is appropriate as well.
  • If a parent disagrees with suggested support, including educational therapy, tutoring, occupational therapy, or testing, the dissent needs to be clearly expressed in writing and sent to the other partner and whatever mediator or legal advisor has been brought on board to advocate for the child. A meeting should be scheduled to reach a compromise.
  • One parent should not unilaterally terminate any academic support without the consent of the other parent unless it is legally been determined that they have the right to do so.
  • Establish routines in each house that align as closely as possible to provide consistency and promote optimal homework environments.
  • Send updates via email after each stay with the other parent regarding any observations about students' challenges, issues, or concerns that need to be addressed by both households. This communication should be free of blame or implied responsibility for the problem but seek to share information only to provide necessary data for proper decision-making.
  • Keep two sets of textbooks at each home.
  • Let any educational or mental health support staff for your child know of any changes in your routine at home or household situation that has impacted or may impact your child. Copy your child's other parent on this email.
  • Ask for explanations and clarification when you don't understand information. Stay fully informed so you are in a position to advocate for your child when needed.

Things co-parents of a disabled child should avoid:

  • Asking professionals to keep secrets from your other partner involving your child and support.
  • Talking about the other parent in a negative way with your child.
  • Missing meetings involving your child's academic future or welfare.
  • Relying on one parent to be the primary advocate for your child at the expense of the involvement of the other parent.
  • Making it the other parent's sole responsibility to manage your child's educational life.
Contributing Writer
Beth is the Founder of SOS for Students, which provides academic coaching for students 10-21, helping students work smarter, not harder, with customized study strategies and expert coaching. Students learn to work independently, with improved skills in time management, project planning, essay writing, note taking, test preparation, and organization. We work with a wide range of students – from those who can't seem to get their homework turned in to students with difficulties taking tests. Many of our students have learning disabilities and significant executive functioning challenges while others simply need support in becoming more efficient and less overwhelmed. Our goal is to partner with families in support of students.