Special needs is a broad term that covers a variety of diagnoses including those that can be resolved quickly and those that pose a challenge for daily life, and those that are fairly mild to those that are more severe. Children with special needs might have medical issu, psychiatric or congenital conditions, as well as developmental setbacks . Children with special needs need accommodations to help them reach their full potential.
The special needs designation can be useful for many reasons. This designation can be helpful in obtaining any services you might need, setting appropriate goals, and understanding your child’s needs and any stress your family might be experiencing.
Challenges and Victories
A child with special needs is often defined by the things he or she cannot do. This could include not meeting important milestones, avoiding certain foods, refraining from certain activities, or the denial of having an opportunity to have a memorable experience. These obstacles can be devastating for families and make special needs seem tragic.
Many parents will often grieve over their child’s loss of potential, and in some cases will find it harder to cope with over time. Others may find their child’s difficulties make their victories more joyful, and that even the most difficult of situations can often be met with incredible strengths.
Each Family’s Concerns Are Unique
There may not be much in common between any two families with children of special needs. One family with developmental delays may have separate concerns than one coping with chronic illness. Families dealing with behavioral difficulties, mental illness, or learning disabilities will have different concerns.
The term “special needs” covers many situations and each one is different. Families should be focused on finding the right guidance and support for their individual concerns.
Cystic Fibrosis, heart defects, muscle dystrophy, and cancer are all serious medical issues that children can face. This includes chronic illnesses such as diabetes and asthma, congenital disorders such as dwarfism and cerebral palsy, and other health risks such as obesity and food allergies.
Children may require regular medical testing, hospital visits, special equipment, or various adjustments for disabilities. It is important to have a support system in place for coping with uncertainty or medical crises.
Traditional discipline may not be suitable for children with behavior problems. Special strategies are needed for children with conditions such as ADHD, Tourette’s syndrome, dysfunction of sensory integration, or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). Behavioral problems can lead to school problems. You as a parent will need to be patient, flexible, and creative.
Developmental disabilities can affect your outlook for the future and make it difficult to care for and educate your child. Children with intellectual disabilities, Down syndrome, autism and other developmental issues frequently cause children to be removed from the societal mainstream.
Parents often become passionate advocates for their children to ensure they receive the therapy, education and inclusion that they deserve and need.
Children with learning disabilities such as dyslexia or APD (auditory processing disorder), have great difficulty learning and keeping up with schoolwork, regardless of their intelligence. They need specialized strategies for learning to reach their full potential and avoid behavioral problems and self-esteem issues. 4
Being persistent is key for parents of children with learning disabilities. It is important to work with your child at home, as well as with their teachers at school, to ensure that they receive all the help and support they need.
Mental Health Problems
It can be alarming to discover that your child is suffering from anxiety, depression, or attachment issues. Of course, every child is different, but these difficulties can cause a family to experience a rollercoaster ride of mood swings, defiance, and crises. Parents need to find the right professionals to assist them and their child. Additionally, you will have to make decisions regarding therapy, medication, and (potentially) hospitalization.
While every child with special needs is unique and each family is different, there are some common concerns that connect parents. These concerns include ensuring that the child receives appropriate care and encouraging acceptance within the extended family, school and community. Some may need to plan and prepare for an uncertain future. You may also need to adapt your expectations and routines, which can happen quite frequently.
Parents of children with special needs often have greater flexibility, compassion, perseverance, and resilience than other parents. Although it might not be what you expected or hoped for, it is essential for your child that you put forth your best effort. You may experience some comfort in knowing that you are not the only one, so don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
- Allshouse C, Comeau M, Rodgers R, Wells N. Families of children with medical complexity: A view from the front lines. Pediatrics. 2018;141(Suppl 3):S195‐S201. doi:10.1542/peds.2017-1284D
- French DD. Essential components of school-based intervention for students with emotional and behavioral disorders: An integration of research and practice. Prev Sch Fail. 2019;63(4):369-381. doi:10.1080/1045988X.2019.1619510
- Lipkin PH, Okamoto J; Council on Children with Disabilities; Council on School Health. The Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) for children with special educational needs. Pediatrics. 2015;136(6):e1650‐e1662. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-3409
- Gibby-Leversuch R, Hartwell BK, Wright S. Dyslexia, literacy difficulties and the self-perceptions of children and young people: A systematic review. Curr Psychol. 2019. doi:10.1007/s12144-019-00444-1