Caring for those in Need

The Impact of Adoption on Education

Adoption is a common method of creating or expanding a family. There are many types of adoptions: private, through foster care, domestic, international, embryo adoption, etc. Although paths to adoption are varied, common across all of them is the impact the act of adoption has on the child who is adopted.

BY Denise Gackenheimer Verzella, Esq. | February 2023 | Category: Healthcare

The Impact of Adoption on Education

Research studies dating back to 1991, show that children who are adopted are more likely to require special education and related services than their nonadopted peers.1 The reason for this difference can be the result of genetics, trauma, lack of nutrition or neglect in early childhood, or the loss of a primary language. Even in adoptions where the child was adopted as a newborn, the impact of the adoption can present later in childhood, and result in emotional challenges that can impact the child’s ability to learn.

To help identify learning problems early, if you are able to communicate with the birth family, ask about learning difficulties in the family. Although not all disabilities that impact learning are genetic, many, such as dyslexia and ADHD, do have a significant familial component.2 As disabilities that impact learning, such as: ADHD, specific learning disabilities, neurological or genetic mutations, etc., were not as widely diagnosed in previous generations as they are now, there may be a bit of “reading between the lines” that has to happen when having these conversations.

If these conversations are not possible, there are early warning signs for many disabilities that you should be aware of and discuss with your child’s pediatrician. These can include: not making eye contact, not babbling or laughing, delayed speech, pronunciation problems, difficulty learning new words, letters or numbers, difficulty following simple directions, poor grasp of a crayon, and poor coordination. If your child is displaying one or more of these early warning signs, you may want to discuss an assessment through early intervention, if your child is under age 3. If your child is age 3 or older, you should discuss these with the school district.

As an adoptive parent myself, with a child who has a learning disability, as well as ADHD, I wish I had been more informed about her family’s medical and mental health history. Although she was provided with an Individualized Education Program as early as preschool, perhaps if I had known about early warning signs, or been more aware of the signs to look for, her programming could have been more robust and address disabilities that did not become apparent until later in her schooling.

The earlier a child receives services for his/her disability the better. The National Center for Learning Disabilities notes that through early screening, and timely recognition of learning difficulties, support can be provided when children’s brains are the most malleable and the early interventions can have greater impact on young students.3 Diagnosing and appropriately supporting my daughter’s educational needs remains a constant journey. Thankfully, there is an abundance of private service providers available, as well as resources through my local school district to support her educational and emotional needs.  

If you have questions about adoption, please contact Manes & Weinberg, LLC, to discuss your family’s needs and options. (973) 376-7733 


  1. Brodzinsky, David and Steiger, Cynthia, Prevalence of Adoptees Among Special Education Populations, Journal of Learning Disabilities, vol. 24, No. 8, October 1991.
  2. National Center for Learning Disabilities, Early Detection of Learning Disabilities: From “Recognizing Risk” to “Responding Rapidly”  
  3. National Center for Learning Disabilities, Why Early Screening, 


Denise  Gackenheimer Verzella, Esq. is a senior associate at Manes & Weinberg, Special Needs Laywers of New Jersey, LLC. Denise has spent a large part of her career working in a variety of areas of higher education at Cardozo Law School, Seton Hall School of Law, and the Silberman College of Business at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Prior to working in higher education, she represented employees in actions against their employers. Denise lives in Essex County with her husband, two children, and their rescue dog. It was while advocating for the needs of her own children, that she recognized the need for an attorney who specialized in special education law, due to the complexity of the laws and processes pertaining to special education. She began to assist friends and relatives in advocating for their own children with special needs. She explained the IEP and 504 processes, and helped parents understand the structure and substance of their evaluations, IEPs and 504 Plans. When she decided to return to the practice of law, it was this desire to assist other families navigate the special education process that drove her decision. Although she spent a short time representing school districts, she quickly realized her passion was representing families. 

Read the article here.