Financial Planning for Parents of Children With Learning Disabilities

ByNathan Paulus
Reviewed byBrad Biren

Updated: March 19, 2024

ByNathan Paulus
Reviewed byBrad Biren

Updated: March 19, 2024

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

Millions of children in the U.S. live with learning disabilities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 32% of the 7.3 million children who received special education or related services from 2021–22 had a learning disability, making it the most common category of disability. By seeking education about the services their children need, tapping into available resources and planning finances strategically, parents can navigate expenses related to learning disabilities and ensure their children have the support they need to thrive.

Common Expenses for Parents of Children With Learning Disabilities

Raising a child with a learning disability can involve a variety of expenses, including the cost of diagnostic evaluations and interventions. Working with a financial advisor to build a plan tailored to these needs can help set your family up for success. We explore some of the most common costs parents may incur below.

Diagnostic Testing for Learning Disabilities

If you suspect your child may have a learning disability, thorough evaluations are crucial to diagnosis. The sooner a test is administered, the sooner your child can access targeted support for optimal developmental outcomes. Typically, evaluations usually take the form of school-based or independent educational evaluations.

School-Based Evaluations

School-based evaluations are cost-effective for identifying a child's educational needs and potential interventions. The school covers most of the costs, although additional expenses might arise for extra assessments. These assessments focus on academic performance, cognitive abilities and behavior, aiming to pinpoint effective support strategies. School-based evaluations are typically conducted by a school psychologist. A diagnosis may help the school and the family develop a performance plan, usually in the form of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Many parents do not want their child to have an IEP because of the misplaced belief that somehow having one will harm the child's opportunities later in life. Understand that an IEP is a supportive measure and can be important for academic success. Also, remember that IEPs only follow a student beyond high school if the student consents.

Independent Educational Evaluations

If the school's evaluation doesn't fully meet your child's needs, consider undergoing an independent educational evaluation (IEE). An IEE can provide detailed insights to develop an effective learning plan. IEEs utilize standardized diagnostic methods recognized by the American Psychological Association, ensuring a universally respected measure of your child's abilities.

However, these additional benefits come with a cost. Private evaluations can range from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on factors like the specialist's location and qualifications. Despite the expense, the comprehensive understanding and tailored strategies an IEE offers can be invaluable in supporting your child's educational journey.

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Most health insurance plans are required to approve a specialized evaluation if a primary care physician provides a referral. If your company declines coverage, ask the doctor to appeal the denial directly to allow for faster claims processing. If you're declined again, contact your state's department of insurance. You can look up your state's insurance regulator on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website. Your state regulator will then investigate your coverage with the insurance company.

Intervention and Therapy for Learning Disabilities

Children with learning disabilities often require tailored interventions and therapies to meet their academic and psychological needs. In some cases, these children have multiple conditions and can benefit from interventions like psychotherapy, occupational therapy, family counseling, special education and medication.

Each treatment plan should be customized to the child's specific diagnosis. Seek evidence-based treatments and consult qualified professionals to develop a comprehensive care plan to balance costs with the most effective outcomes for the child's well-being.



Psychotherapy addresses the emotional and psychological hurdles associated with learning disabilities. Costs typically range from $75 to $150 per session but can be higher. Insurance often covers these expenses, particularly for in-network therapists, with a standard copayment and occasional reauthorization needed.

Select therapists with the highest credentials and consider individual and couples therapy to fully utilize your benefits. While doctorate-level care is rare, qualified LMHCs or LISWs can provide substantial support. Always approach therapy with clear goals and stay informed about your insurance's session policies for continuous, effective treatment.


Occupational therapy

Occupational therapy enhances daily function and motor skills through specialized techniques. Costs fluctuate based on the therapy type, session length and therapist's expertise. Hospital-based services usually incur higher costs. Insurance might cover some costs under specific conditions. For those without coverage, compare providers to find affordable and effective services.


Family counseling

Recognizing the needs of all family members — not just the child with the learning disability — can be beneficial for fostering support. Family counseling costs typically range from $50 to $200 per session, depending on the therapist's qualifications and location.


Special education

Public schools typically offer special education services at no extra cost, but private programs vary in price. If denied services, parents can request a Due Process hearing under IDEA 2004 to explore alternatives or potentially secure district funding for private education if the school can't meet their child's needs.

Be prepared that districts might place your child in a specialized public school outside your local area instead of a private one. Engaging with your state's education department will help you understand and navigate your options more effectively. If advocating for private education, be ready to demonstrate how the district's resources fail to meet your child's needs.



Medications can help address symptoms of conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and help children focus. Ensure your health insurance covers your child's specific treatments and medications. Consult with your plan sponsor to understand your coverage and avoid unexpected expenses affecting your financial planning.

Additionally, be sure to factor in ongoing treatments for any existing medical conditions impacting learning, like seizure disorders or sensory impairments. Always confirm treatment and medication coverage before committing to a health insurance policy to prevent costly surprises.

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To manage therapy expenses, explore financial tools like Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) for low deductible health insurance plans, allowing up to $3,200 of your pre-taxed income to be allocated in 2024. For high-deductible plans, Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) offer similar tax benefits with the advantage of rolling over the entire remaining balance year to year, aiding in long-term medical savings.

For children needing additional diagnoses, consider an ABLE account. It allows the use of post-taxed dollars up to $100,000 without affecting Medicaid or other public resources, providing substantial support for out-of-pocket expenses. Always consult the latest IRS guidelines or a financial advisor for the most accurate and beneficial approach.

Financial Assistance Options

Several resources can help ease the expenses associated with caring for children with learning disabilities, spanning the local, state, federal and private levels. Immediate relief is often available through government benefits like Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicaid. Proactively apply for these aids to lessen financial burdens and concentrate on your child's development and education.

Government Benefits for Children With Learning Disabilities

When applying for government benefits, ensure you understand its eligibility and requirements. For instance, Medicaid considers parental income and assets and not all children with significant impairments automatically qualify due to parental resources being attributed to the child's eligibility. Below are some key government benefits parents of children with learning disabilities can access:

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For optimal outcomes, start an ABLE account early. When the child turns 18, they can have up to $100,000 in an account without affecting their asset calculation for eligibility. Transition planning should begin by middle school to ensure continuous health care coverage. There is a yearly maximum contribution of $17,000 to any single ABLE account.

Additionally, you can explore state services like vocational rehabilitation and agencies for specific needs, offering support for home and office accommodations at little to no cost. If considering trusts, ensure they allow trustee discretion to avoid them being counted as the child's assets.

Medical Expense Deduction

The Medical Expense Deduction allows families to deduct unreimbursed medical expenses exceeding 7.5% of their adjusted gross income (AGI). The deduction can include costs of learning disability diagnosis, necessary therapies, prescribed medications and special education services. For instance, if your AGI is $100,000 and you have $10,000 in medical expenses, you can deduct $2,500 from your taxable income, potentially leading to substantial tax savings.

Consider significant expenses like specialized equipment, as they might qualify for itemized deductions if they exceed 10% of your AGI and the standard deduction. Shifting to a 1099 work-from-home setup can sometimes offer "above the line" deductions for business-related expenses. Consult a tax advisor to ensure all deductible expenses are accurately accounted for.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

The Child and Dependent Care Credit offers tax relief to parents of children with learning disabilities by allowing them to claim a portion of care-related expenses while they work or seek employment. Qualifying costs include daycare, after-school programs and day camps. The credit amount varies with your income and expenses. For example, if your AGI is $50,000 and you've spent $3,000 on eligible care, a percentage can be credited against your taxes, lowering your overall tax bill.

Note that the credit reduces as your income rises, and there are limits on the claimable amount. The child must be under 13 or incapable of self-care if older. Consult a tax advisor to help you navigate the specific conditions and maximize your benefits.

Education Assistance and Scholarships

Numerous organizations offer education assistance and scholarships for students with disabilities, assisting with higher education or vocational training costs. Consult with the schools or organizations offering these scholarships and grants and local organizations — such as local chapters of national organizations — for more information about funding availability and eligibility requirements. Examples of scholarships include the Anne Ford Scholarship, Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarship and Joseph James Morelli Scholarships.

Developing a Financial Plan

For some families, the cost of care for children with learning disabilities can be substantial. When developing a financial plan as the parent of a child with disabilities, we recommend taking the following steps:


Additional Resources

We’ve collected resources that offer both financial guidance and practical assistance for parents navigating the financial landscape of having children with learning disabilities.

  • Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB): Provides guidance on managing financial challenges and understanding consumer rights, including financial products and services that may affect families with learning disabilities.
  • Federal Student Aid: Offers various grants, scholarships and loan programs to assist with educational expenses.
  • FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority): Offers investor education and resources on financial planning and investment protection, which can be beneficial for long-term financial strategies for families with learning disabilities.
  • IRS (Internal Revenue Service): Offers detailed information on tax credits and deductions available to families with children who have learning disabilities, such as the Medical Expense Deduction and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
  • Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA): Dedicated to supporting individuals with learning disabilities through advocacy, education and research. Access resources for parents, professionals and individuals on coping strategies, educational rights and more at the LDA website.
  • Supporting Neurodivergent People in Personal Finance: This MoneyGeek guide offers valuable guidance and strategies specifically tailored to help neurodivergent individuals manage their finances effectively.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD): A premier advocacy group providing extensive information on legal rights, educational strategies and financial aid for children with learning disabilities.
  • Special Needs Alliance: A network of disability attorneys offering free, in-depth resources on financial planning and legal considerations for special needs families.

About Nathan Paulus

Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.