Parenting Special Needs
It is natural, biologically wired, for a child to approach developmental tasks and milestones and master them. In many ways, the developmental process unfolds before the parent’s eyes. A child coos, then babbles and, matter of factly, speaks his or her first word. From a parent perspective, these ‘milestones’ are expected and met with excitement and relief. In the first few years of life, children experience a myriad of changes that encompass cognitive and intellectual, speech and language, emotional and psychological, fine and gross motor development. Anna Freud referred to these biologically based changes as “lines of development.” We expect a certain pattern of development to unfold. When infants, toddlers, or children begin to demonstrate developmental lags or do not master normally expected childhood tasks, the parents become saddled with a host of negative feelings and enter into a world of “special needs.” There are four key components in parenting special needs children.
EDUCATION - Become educated. Read books. Talk to friends and family. Ask questions and then more questions. There was no PARENTING 101 class that prepared you for this challenge. It is your parenting responsibility to become educated in your child’s special needs. Education is a powerful tool.
ADVOCATE - You are your child’s voice in the system. Nobody knows your child better than you. You will need to advocate, at least, throughout your child’s academic years.
EARLY INTERVENTION - Getting your child the help he or she needs is critical. Early intervention is not a cure but it does enhance the potential for skill acquisition, no matter what the developmental lags are. Early intervention provides your child the beginning support network, or in other words, alternative building blocks for individual growth.
INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES - As parents we know that every child is different. In the case of children with special needs, appreciating and understanding individual differences is a must. One intervention program for one child may not be the right program for the next child. Find a program that fits the special needs of your child.