7 Tips for When You Have More Than One Child Who Learns and Thinks Differently

By Amanda Morin

Having more than one child with a learning or thinking difference can create unique challenges for parents. These tips can help you handle those challenges—from second-guessing your judgment to juggling doctors’ appointments.

1. Review expectations.

If you have an older child with learning and thinking differences, it can be hard to know what to look for as your younger child develops. Reviewing what’s expected at each age can help you assess whether you need to be concerned about anything you’re seeing.

2. Keep separate records.

Be sure to begin a new three-ring binder for your younger child’s medical and school records. It can be tempting to put all your children’s information and notes together in one place. But having a different binder in a different color for each one makes it a lot easier to find what you need quickly and easily.

3. Don’t second-guess your instincts.

When you have one child with learning or thinking differences, you may think you’re just being paranoid if you suspect another child has these issues, too. But it’s best to speak with his doctor rather than assume you’re imagining things. Keep track of whatever behavior concerns you have and bring those notes with you to the appointment.

4. Take advantage of the resources you already have.

Setting up meetings or putting services in place for your child may be easier the second time around. Although it can be unsettling to go through the process again, at least you’re not starting from scratch. And this time, you can turn for help to the providers you’re already connected to through your older child.

5. Try not to compare your kids.

Learning and thinking differences look different in different kids. Don’t assume the journey with each child will be the same. The “I” in IFSP and IEP stands for individualized. Keep in mind, as you sit down to write goals or create a treatment plan for your child, that it needs to be based on his own needs, not what worked for his sibling.

6. Be smart about scheduling.

Getting one kid to therapy and doctors’ appointments is hard enough—don’t let two double your trouble. If you can, try to use the same service providers for both children and plan their appointments back-to-back. You may even want to see if there’s another therapist in an office you already go to, so your children can have appointments at the same time.

7. Get the help you need.

Having more than one child who needs extra support can sometimes be tough. Building your own support network is key to making sure you can meet your own needs and cope with your stress. Talk to friends and family about how they can help. When issues come up with your children, don’t be afraid to ask their schools and therapists for help, too. And use our community to keep in touch with other parents in similar circumstances.