Steps to Take When Parenting a Child with Special Needs


Around 12.8% of children
 (9.4 million in total) have special needs and around 20% of all households are raising a child with special needs.The prevalence of special health care needs increases with age, with the highest rates of special health care needs found in those aged 12 to 17 (15.8% compared to 7.8% in kids aged zero to five). Some of the most common needs children are diagnosed with are speech and/or language delays, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), cognitive delays, and learning differences. Some needs require less aid than others. Those requiring more care include cerebral palsy—a motor disability that is developed by around 10,000 babies born every year. ASD can also require a range of therapies that can involve. 

Receiving the Diagnosis

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It is normal to feel overwhelmed if your child has just been diagnosed with a special need. During this initial time you may undergo various stages, including anger, denial, and sadness before reaching a stage of acceptance. It is logical to take time until you feel like you have ‘found your place.’ Your motivation to discover effective and new treatments will increase as they gain awareness, speak to other parents of children with their child’s condition, and start making appointments with different specialists and centers.

Coming to Terms with Expenses

Special needs can be costly and time-consuming to meet fully, so big changes may be required in terms of your family’s financial and work structure. ASD, for instance, can benefit from many approaches, including behavior therapy, dietary approaches, medication, alternative medicine, and more. Meanwhile, cerebral palsy therapy varies and includes speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other alternative approaches. As is the case with ASD, children with cerebral palsy can benefit from psychotherapy to target behavioral issues and improve self-esteem. These treatments can be expensive but there are also many organizations dedicated to providing aid to children through specialized networks, screenings and grants. By contacting your community organizations, you can find out about any financial or medical/therapeutic aid you may be entitled to.

Finding Respite Care

Once you receive a diagnosis, it is important to join online forums and community groups, as there are often vital sources of information. Sometimes, they are more useful than what you may find online because needs can be highly specialized and meeting parents in the same situation will help you hone in on specific topics. Inquire how others are dealing with finding a good balance between caring for their child and working or enjoying a little personal time of their own. In the U.S., personal assistance services are provided to over 13 million people for tasks such as bathing, cooking, shopping, medical visits, and the like. One survey by L Barker et al. showed that almost 80% of parents with disabled children need personal assistance. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, as your own happiness and wellbeing will benefit your child greatly.

If you have a child who has just been diagnosed with a special need, know that it will take time to feel fully confident about everything from the school you choose to the type of treatments you opt for. Forming strong support networks is important in terms of resource gathering and emotional wellbeing. Ensure you take advantage of government aid and that you accept any personal assistance you may be entitled to, so you can find a good balance between being a carer and an individual.

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