5 Tips For Parenting A Child With Special Needs
By: Suzie Dalien, M.Ed.
All children in this world are different from one another. A child with special needs may have a number of extraneous circumstances such as mental, physical, emotional or behavioral conditions – sometimes more than one at a time. Parenting a child with special needs presents its own unique set of rules, regulations and rewards, all of which are based on your child’s specific needs.
Once your child has been identified as a beneficiary of special education services, it’s time to start thinking about your parenting skills and how they can be adapted to your own child’s sensitivities for the best, most positive outcomes possible.
1. Understand your child’s special needs.
If you have little or no experience parenting a child with special needs, the daily struggle to control their behavior and understand their mind or actions can be incredibly overwhelming and frustrating at first. It’s important to immerse yourself in your child’s specific disability (learning, emotional, autism, etc.), utilizing any and all resources you can find to get a better handle on what makes them tick. Speak with your child’s doctor, therapist, school counselor or specialists to get the most insight into their specific needs so you can see things from your child’s point of view. Knowing is half the battle, and will prevent many future miscommunications.
2. Be supportive and know when to accept help.
It can be tempting to manage all of your child’s needs on your own as your parental instinct for protection kicks in. You have raised your child from a baby, so who better to take care of them than you? That is certainly true for some situations, but when it comes to behavioral corrections and diagnosis it’s best to trust the professionals, as well as the advice of those who are currently in the midst of parenting a child with special needs. Your peers can provide some of the best, most honest advice possible, and accepting assistance does not mean you have failed as a parent; it means you have recognized the need for help, and want the best possible care for your child with special needs as possible.
The struggle is real for both you and your child, so don’t forget how frustrating being a child with special needs really is. Take the time to listen to your child when they are upset and angry, as well as happy and concerned. Work with them to identify emotional, physical and behavioral barriers then come up with a valid solution to the problem. Treat your child with love and respect, and you will see that effort returned through solid behavior and problem-solving skills.
3. Take time for yourself.
If you are not properly cared for, you have a diminished capacity to care for other people, but it might feel like there is limited or no free time in which to find some precious relaxation. Taking care of a child with special needs can become time-consuming if you let it, leading to feelings of guilt when you finally get some “me” time. Build some time into your day in which you spend it simply doing what makes you feel good – grab an extra grande latte with loads of whipped cream, take a hot bubble bath or read a good book with your headphones on. Whatever makes you happy, engage in that activity at least once a day for some much-needed peace of mind and rejuvenation; you will have a clearer mind and calmer heart going forward, which translates into better parenting skills.
4. Do not judge your child by their behavior.
We are not the sum of our emotions, which means we are not being true to ourselves when we show anger in stressful situations. Everyone reacts differently when presented with the same situation, and a child with special needs might interpret their surroundings as hostile or uncertain; when that happens, it can cause your child to scream, cry, get angry or throw a tantrum. When this happens, know that you are not dealing with your child directly – you are contending with their emotional face. This can lead to a breakdown in communication if you are not calm and collected while your child is having a hard time coping. Behaviors at home and in public should be handled to best suit the needs of your child and their current environment.
A child is not inherently “bad” or “good,” rather they are the total of what we teach them, and what they observe. Your child’s true self can be hidden by a mask of negative emotions, but with a little coaxing and deliberation you can pull them from their shell and show them a better way of life.
5. You are not alone!
The results are in: over 14% of the children in the United States are classified as having special needs. When you consider there are over 75 million residents under the age of 18, this figure represents almost 11 million children. It might feel like you’re standing on the last remnants of an iceberg in a sea of uncertainty, but you’re most certainly not alone; in fact, discovering your child has special needs is only breaching the surface of a whole new world.
When you become overwhelmed ,your child with special needs can pick up on that negativity and uncertainty, which can lead them to act up out of confusion or stress. Focusing on staying calm and reaching out for support, can ease your worried mind and help your child thrive in an emotionally stable environment.
We at Special Education Resource have intimate working knowledge of special education and the children who need and deserve these services. We are dedicated to helping you succeed in your roles as parent, educator and superhero. Behaviors are most often the symptom of a much deeper issue. In a lot of cases, the child is frustrated or overwhelmed due to their environment, school or lack of understanding current course work. Through special education tutoring, behaviors are often minimized in a relatively short amount of time. We take your child’s current curriculum and mold it to fit their individual learning style. Taking the stress out of special needs is the first step in parenting success, but it can be a hard road to travel while you search for the light at the end of the tunnel. Trial and error, a healthy dose of patience and never-ending love will help both you and your child discover a healthy parenting balance of discipline and support.
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