Although every child is special, children with special needs are unique and require greater attention and care. Special needs children can be found in countries all over the world. They come from all social, ethnic and economic backgrounds. Despite being of different races, colors and creeds, these children have one thing in common – they all face physical, mental or emotional challenges that make it difficult for them to cope with everyday living.
Many countries have programs that support the education and care of children with special needs. These programs help relieve parental stress in raising special needs kids on their own. Parents can greatly benefit from the help of schools, churches, community centers and support groups when caring for their special children.
Definition of “Special Needs”
The term “special needs” can cover a wide spectrum of disabilities ranging from mild learning disorders to slow mental or physical development, physical impairments, chronic illness, food allergies, panic attacks, psychiatric problems, etc. In the U.S., a special needs student can benefit from educational programs and medical services that enables him or her to receive a quality education and establish a professional career.
Special needs children have limitations in coping with everyday living in a “normal” family environment. There’s often much they cannot do on their own. This makes it necessary for parents to become more involved in their daily care. Some parents resent or bemoan the weaknesses of their children; others face their children’s difficulties with a positive attitude and learn valuable lessons of love and sacrifice that benefit the whole family. How parents react to their special needs situation can make or break their family. By facing the challenges with an optimistic attitude, parents can help build a stronger, happier family environment and encourage their children to reach their full potential.
Most parents face similar concerns when it comes to caring for children with special needs. They may feel lost, alone and inadequate in providing their kids with the help they need. Special needs children may require consistent medical care, mental or physical therapy, a specialized learning environment, constant supervision and more. Some parents find it difficult balancing the care of these children with other children, home responsibilities and career. Financial concerns can also take a toll on the family environment.
Support groups can be a tremendous help and encouragement to parents in their time of need. Most communities offer counseling, community services or online support for parents with special needs kids. Talking with other parents who have had more experience in this area can give you valuable insight into how to cope with your kids everyday care. You can also benefit from the friendship, fellowship and encouragement of like minded parents who understand what you are going through.
Types of Special Needs
Special needs children may face issues with chronic illness, slow mental or physical development, learning disabilities, behavior issues or mental health problems. The following explores each of these categories in more detail.
1. Chronic Illness
Many special needs children suffer from serious medical conditions such as:
- muscular dystrophy
- cerebral palsy
- heart defects
- dwarfism and more.
Even medical issues like food allergies, asthma and obesity can hinder a child’s ability to cope with life. Children with chronic illlnesses may require constant medical tests, medications, hospital stays and specialized equipment to accommodate their disability. The physical state of special needs children affect the whole family. Depending on a child’s condition, parents and siblings may go through a great deal of anxiety, worry and fear.
2. Mental and Physical Development
Issues with mental and physical development can be particularly difficult for families to handle as they cause so many changes to a family’s lifestyle. Children diagnosed with such disabilities as Down syndrome or autism require special education, therapy and medical care outside mainstream society. Parents will need to make major adjustments in their lifestyle to meet their children’s needs.
3. Learning Issues
Although learning disabilities qualify as special needs, many of them can be overcome to help children reach their full potential. Learning disorders make it more difficult for children to acquire important academic skills. Alternative learning methods that incorporate multi-sensory activities and strategies can help children and teens progress in their schooling. The combined effort of parents and teachers is key to helping kids with learning disabilities succeed.
4. Behavior Issues
ADHD, Dysfunction of Sensory Integration and autism are just a few of many conditions causing serious behavior issues in special needs kids. Behavior issues may range from bouts of depression to uncontrolled anger and fear. Most children with behavior problems do not respond to conventional means of reasoning or discipline. This makes it more difficult for parents or teachers to control their adverse behavior. Without some means of control, however, these children can wreak havoc in a school or home setting. Caregivers for these children may need to experiment with different ways of reaching them in order to help them control their emotions.
5. Mental Health Problems
A special needs child with mental health problems may suffer from depression, anxiety, detachment, paranoia or similar conditions. Parents may need the help of medical professionals for counsel on what kind of medications, therapy or hospitalization program would best meet their child’s needs. By working with qualified specialists in the mental health field, parents can gain greater knowledge into how to help their kids cope with their disability.
There are numerous resources parents can count on for help and support with their special needs kids. In addition to local support groups, state and federal organizations and programs have been established to provide information on medical services, education, job training, financial assistance, caregivers, etc. for children with special needs. The following are but a few:
- DO-IT (Disabilities, Opportunities, Internetworking and Technology) Center
- Center for Parent Information and Resources
- Council for Exceptional Children
- Disability Resources Monthly Guide
- K12 Academics
- Learning Ally
- National Center on Secondary Education and Transition
- National Council on Independent Living
- PACER Center
By researching these options and any others offered by your state, you can become better informed about the opportunities available for your special children. Children with disabilities need all the help they can get to learn, grow and establish their place in society. You can help your child have a better future by providing him or her with the opportunity to receive a quality education and job skills within his abilities and means.
Many children with disabilities grow up to live useful and productive lives. Medical advances in medications, therapy and equipment are playing an important role in helping disabled young people establish successful careers. With the help of parents, medical staff, therapists and teachers, special needs kids can learn how to adjust to their disability and make the most of their situation. Through education and job training, many establish themselves in prosperous careers or learn job skills that help them live independently from their immediate families.
These success stories are made possible by parents who have faith and vision for their children’s future and help their special children develop their abilities and skills to the full. There are numerous possibilities for children with disabilities to be productive members of society. Their contributions can help many others in similar situations and enable them to lead satisfying and happy lives. Knowing these possibilities should encourage parents to do all they can to be a pillar of help and support to their special needs children.
Unconditional Love and Acceptance
Children with special needs present many challenges for the average family. However, it’s important to remember that they, too, are a part of the family and need unconditional love and acceptance. Raising a child requires patience, love, understanding, firmness, perseverance and more. With special needs children, these qualities may need to be multiplied many times over. At the same time, raising a special needs child can bring greater depth and appreciation into the family circle, as adults and siblings unite to make their situation work.
Special needs kids are like treasures waiting to be discovered – sometimes it requires that you dig deep to uncover the beauty within, but it’s well worth the effort to see these children shine. Many children with special needs have grown into happy and productive adults, contributing their talents and skills to society at large. The journey to develop their potential may have been long and arduous, but the love of family and friends helped pull them through. Unconditional love and acceptance can go a long ways towards making your child’s dreams come true.