By Amanda Morin
Having more than one child with a learning or attention issue can create unique challenges for parents. These tips can help you handle those challenges—from second-guessing your judgment to juggling doctors’ appointments.
If you have an older child with learning and attention issues, 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.
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.
When you have one child with learning or attention issues, 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.
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.
Learning and attention issues 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.
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.
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.
Your other children are likely to notice their sibling’s learning or attention issues and have questions. These conversation tips can help you reply honestly and appropriately—and support all your children.
Having more than one child with learning or attention issues can get very complicated. Parents speak about the challenges of meeting all their children’s needs—and share tips on how to do it.
Amanda Morin is a parent advocate, a former teacher and the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.
Elizabeth Harstad, M.D., M.P.H., is a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital.
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