special needs

The following tips can help parents and other caregivers who provide for children with special needs.

The day a child is born is one of the happiest days in parents’ lives. New parents understand they have things to learn and that there will be challenges along the way. Those challenges could be more immediate for parents of special needs children.

Active Parenting Publishers says “special needs” refers to a physical or mental health condition that occurs with development or as the result of an injury. Examples of special needs may include children with learning or behavioral conditions such as dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Children with autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, or paraplegia also may fall under the special needs umbrella. The National Center for Education Statistics says that, in the 2019-20 school year, 7.3 million public school students between the ages of three and 21 received special needs education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

One of the key challenges parents of special needs children may face is providing care and assistance without making the child overly dependent on his or her parents. Another challenge may be carving out time to decompress from the role of caregiver.

The following tips can help parents and other caregivers who provide for children with special needs.

• Ask for help. Parents and caregivers should not hesitate to ask for help when raising special needs children. Caregivers must overcome any misconception that they will be a burden if they seek support. Seek help from friends, family members or support groups.

• Release the bonding hormone. Researchers have found that the hormone oxytocin is released when one person experiences empathy for another, creating a sense of well-being and trust between the two people, according to Active Parent Publishers. Empathize with your child and you can work together more successfully.

• Build on strengths. Stimulate independence in your child while resisting the urge to reach in and do everything for him or her. This approach requires patience. Children – even special needs children – need to struggle to a point to develop certain skills and become as independent as possible. Celebrate all achievements, no matter how small.

• Establish rules and routines. Rules and routines provide something the child can expect each day. This will encourage a sense of security.

• Make contingency plans. Life may be unpredictable, but have a few options in your back pocket. A contingency plan may include a list of go-to locations if you learn a venue isn’t wheelchair accessible or if a child is bothered by loud noises or lights.

Planning is often key when parenting a child with special needs. Learning what works for others may help parents become more effective caregivers.

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