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Families of children with learning differences report strong concerns about education, mental health, and financial burden


More than a year into the pandemic, many families have faced challenges —from difficulties with distance learning to unemployment or financial instability, yet results from Understood’s new “Pandemic Learning Impact Study” highlight a stark difference between the experiences of neurotypical families compared to those whose children learn and think differently, like dyslexia and ADHD

In April, Understood surveyed 1,500 U.S.-based parents of children ages 5-18 (both neurotypical children and kids who learn and think differently) about how the pandemic has impacted their education, mental health, and finances. The study found that in the remote learning environment, nearly three-quarters (72%) of parents have become aware of or noticed their children may have learning challenges or differences. The divide was clearest in several areas, including: 

  • Learning loss: Nearly 60% of parents of students with learning and thinking differences say their children are a year behind and may never catch up, while 16% of “typical” parents believe their children are behind in their studies because of the pandemic. 

  • Mental health: Children with learning and thinking differences are nearly three times as likely to have experienced depression related to schooling changes. The stress related to distance learning has been much higher for those with learning and thinking differences versus those without (65% vs. 44%), resulting in emotional distress (61% vs. 36%), physical symptoms (57% vs. 30%), avoidance of attending classes (47% vs. 23%) and more. 

  • Finances: Almost twice as many (56% vs. 30%) parents of children with learning and thinking differences say providing their child with academic support has put a major financial burden on their family.

  • Summer school: Almost all (86%) parents of children with learning and thinking differences are planning on summer academic support compared to just half of parents of typical children.

“Our ‘Pandemic Learning Impact Study’ shows there’s still work to be done even as much of the country reopens,” said Fred Poses, CEO of Understood. “As we have before and throughout the pandemic, Understood continues to guide individuals who learn and think differently. We’re working to close the gaps that the pandemic has exposed so that more individuals have the opportunity to thrive.”

If any of the challenges reported in the survey are familiar to you or someone you know, visit Understood or the following resources:

Connecting with other families for support:

Supporting children’s mental health: 

Helping children with school: 

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