HomeeducationDo Gender Roles Influence How Learning Disabilities Are Handled? – Part 1

There’s little doubt that the sex we’re assigned at birth has a long lasting effect on who we are as people. However, the concept of gender is far more complicated than what our bodies look like before and after puberty hits.

Regardless of if our brains happen to agree with what sex our bodies are, each and every one of us is influenced from birth in regards to how we should behave, what we should wear and what we should be interested in according to if we happen to carry XX or XY chromosomes in the slot that dictate’s their body’s sex.

When I came across this article on the NCLD web page about how raising an LD child impacts traditional marriage, I got thinking about how these roles influence the treatment learning disabilities.

Married Families
Whether your family is the traditional mom/dad, single parent, mom/mom, dad/dad, transgender parents or any other make up, there is always some sort of influence on how adults parent their children.

The article linked above only addresses the traditional mom/dad model, since that is still more prevalent, and that’s what the majority of people have experience with.

It’s very true that mothers are still expected to be the nurturers. In a mother/father situation, where mom is at home all the time, moms do tend to be more in tune with their kids’ emotional/educational needs. As a result, they tend to see problems before anyone else, and by extension, end up doing a lot of the advocacy for their kids. In this model, the fathers are usually the disciplinarians and bread winners. They’re seen as detached and unable to handle the “softer” aspects of parenthood.

Unfortunately, that also means that the fathers may not understand everything that’s going on with their LD child. That lack of knowledge can lead to frustration and downright anger on both the child’s and the dad’s parts.

Of course, this is patently untrue in many households, but there still may be some more distance involved, especially if they’re the sole earner and spend more time away from home than mom.

However, the trend is changing. Although the stereotype of the bumbling, hard working dad is still around, the general idea of what a dad should be is slowly changing. If you watch commercials, you may have noticed the presence of more men advertising things like laundry detergent and other household items. The marketers are recognizing the increased responsibility many dads are taking with household duties.

I’d hope that this trend translates into parenting, as well. When a child has learning disabilities, parents must be unified in how the challenges are handled, regardless of who fills what role. They must be equally knowledgeable about what their kids are going through.

The whole concept of the “ideal family” should change, as well, what with the greater acceptance of gay marriage and relationships. There are still people who have objections, sometimes violent, to people who love others of the same gender, but more states are showing their support of marriage between people of the same gender by legalizing it. Hopefully the concept of two dads or two moms will become more normalized with time.

Many of the arguments against gay marriage centered around the well being of the kids. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, children in a household where the parents are LGBTQ are no more likely to develop mental or emotional problems than those in heterosexual households. I’d argue that this would also apply to learning difficulties.

When a child is raised in a household with LGBTQ parents, the stress they experience doesn’t usually seem to be because of their parents’ gender identities or attraction to one another. The vast majority seems to come from the negative reactions of people outside of their immediate family.

It’s no surprise that this can have a very negative impact on their schooling, especially if they’re already struggling with some sort of learning or developmental disability. However, a parent’s gender identity or sexuality has nothing to do with their ability to advocate for their child’s education.

Single Moms vs Single Dads

When I was young, my parents got divorced. My dad had remarried shortly after it was official and moved halfway across the country.

Naturally, both my mom and dad wanted custody of the four of us. Instead of making a ruling, the court decided to let the four of us choose who we wanted to live with. If we were all in our late teens, that may not have been such a stupid move, but we ranged in age from 8 to 2 years old.

Long story short, my brother and I ended up with our mom, and my sisters ended up with our dad.

Had I been older, I probably would have pushed to keep the four of us together. In any case, as hard as it was for us, I’m sure it was even harder for my parents.

Parenting was no doubt a challenge with four kids, but suddenly being a single mom of one child with learning disabilities and another with developmental/intellectual disabilities had to be overwhelming. Even though my dad did whatever he could for us from the distance imposed by the move, when it came right down to it, my mom was still alone in many ways.

Fortunately, my mom’s parents moved to the area to help. I don’t remember asking for help with things like homework, but I did know that my grandparents were there to help in any way they could while my mom was either at her school or work. I have no idea if my mom got any sort of state aid in addition to child support, but if she wanted to, there’s no doubt she would have qualified for something.

Regardless, I graduated high school with a Regents diploma and made honor roll a few times, and my brother also graduated several years after I did.

To be perfectly clear, I love all of my parents, and I don’t blame them for anything that’s happened. They did the best they could, and that’s all I could ever ask for.

In cases where the parents separate before the baby is born, the mom is more often than not the one who ends up being the one to raise the baby because she’s the one who gives birth to it. Even if the father wants to get custody, many states still grant full custody to the mother by default.

This is also the case in many cases of divorce. As a result, most state and federal programs are geared towards helping the mom out with things like daycare, food stamps and WIC.

Unfortunately, when the mom signs up for those programs, she’s often looked down upon as being irresponsible for not being able to provide for the kids or taking advantage of the system. Many people also shame her for having the children in the first place, with no regard to her individual situation.

However, there are single dads out there, too. Although they face different social stigmas than single moms do, they tend to have far more problems in getting the state aid they may need. This is in huge part because they’re so much more of a minority.

This is where single dads are hit by their own stigmas. In our culture, men are still expected to be able to take care of everything themselves. If they somehow fall short, they’re seen as less of a man, and in some cases laughed at for it. Depending on the prejudice of the workers in specific offices, this may make getting help next to impossible when they need it.

These difficulties only add on to the stress single parents face. If their kids happen to have learning or developmental disabilities, they may be faced with additional problems in getting their children the help they need in school.

Many married parents already face the stigma that they’ve done something wrong, but single parents may have that one thrown at them more often. It’s tempting for many people to pin the difficulty LD kids of single parents are having on an ‘unstable environment’, poor parenting or other unfounded ideas.

I also wonder if schools treat mothers and fathers differently. I suppose that would depend on the school staff and parents in question. I haven’t been able to find anything about that.

In the end, I tend to think letting go of the roles our culture wants to impose on us in favor of adapting to our individual situations is far healthier in all areas, but especially in education. What counts is that each child receives the love, support and resources they need to succeed in life, regardless of what gender(s) their caregiver(s) happens to be.

This entry ended up being quite a bit longer than I had intended it to be, so I decided to split it up into two parts. The next one will be about how the gender of the student may impact the way they’re treated in regards to their learning disabilities.

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