The Connecticut Parents with Cognitive Limitations Work Group (PWCL)  [1] was formed in 2002 to address the issue of support of parents with cognitive limitations and their families. Although the number of families headed by a parent with cognitive limitations is uncertain, and identification of these families is one of the group’s challenges, it is estimated that at least one third of the families in the current child welfare system are families headed by a parent with cognitive limitations. [2]

People with cognitive limitations may have difficulty including but not limited to:

Regulating emotion
Scheduling and keeping appointments
Setting limits and following through

These limitations may result in problems:

maintaining a home
keeping their family together
communicating with their children's schools
finding and/or keeping a job
maintaining benefits for themselves or their child    

Isolation and lack of transportation exacerbate these problems.


These parents may be unidentified or may be misidentified as mentally ill or as substance abusers.  When they cannot meet the expectations of the available programs and services, including those designed for these other populations, these parents are often:


labeled as "noncompliant", or "uncooperative"
considered "bad parents"


This population needs to be recognized as distinctive and in need of specific services tailored to its needs.  Currently, there are few community supports tailored to meet the on-going needs of these families who often require longer term services than most of our systems currently fund.  In addition, many of our systems fund services for an individual (e.g. child or substance abusing parent) but not for the family.

To address these issues, The Workgroup developed a training on "Identifying and Working with Parents with Cognitive Limitations" which has been offered in many communities throughout the State and additional trainings will continue to be offered each year.[3]  In addition to offering a conference for administrators and supervisors, the Workgroup also created an Interview Assessment Guide to assist workers in identifying these families. The Workgroup has drafted recommendations regarding the use of plain language in communicating with all parents (See Plain Language tab under Parents with Cognitive Limitations) and developed a training on plain language.


For more information, email Wendy Kwalwasser, Ph.D., Co-chair, at or Barbara Nadeau, Co-chair, MA, OTR/L, CB/ST,


[1] Member agencies include the Department of Children and Families; State Department of Education; Department of Developmental Services; Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services; Department of Public Health; Department of Social Services; Department of Correction; Connecticut Council of Family Service Agencies; The Connection, Inc.; Brain Injury Alliance; Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities; Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities; Klingberg Family Centers; Oak Hill Centers; Quinnipiac University; and The Connection, Inc.


[2] Azar, Sandra (2007)


[3] To date, over 2000 State workers and community providers have attended the training.