What are Special Needs?
Special Needs is a very general term to cover any number of conditions a child may possess. Some children are born with these specialties and others show up over time. Included in this are children with autism, Asperger's Syndrome, selective mutism, Down Syndrome, pediatric anxiety, pediatric depression, relational aggression, and pediatric bipolar disorder. Each of these conditions - and countless others - cause children to have difficulty functioning in the ways that society considers "normal." Children with special needs may have difficulty reading, understanding, or relating to other people.
Simply put, children with special needs need special care.
Statistically, the numbers are ever-increasing: approximately 10% of children in the United States have some form of special need.
A child with special needs is one who has out-of-the-ordinary needs created by a condition, disability, or developmental delay in one or more of the following areas:
- Physical development and motor skills
- Thinking and learning
- Communication and language development
- The senses: vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell (including sensory integration)
- Social and emotional development
- Self-care and daily living skills
Adapted from CICC
Help for Parents With Special Needs Children:
Parents feel overwhelmed when they discover (all at once or gradually) that their child has special needs. Pain, fear, and anger are at war for attention and expression. After great care for their children, the most important things that SN parents need are information and support.
Here are several important things for parents with special needs children to remember:
Your child is a person. First and always. A disability doesn't define who your child is, nor should it ever. Your child will grow, evolve, and change as we all do.
Ignore the labels. While labels can be helpful for things such as getting your child the proper care and treatment he or she needs, labeling is also something that can limit the way you see your child. Even with a label and a diagnosis, your child is a person with his or her own unique likes and dislikes and his or her own personality and emotions. So try to ignore the labels and focus upon who your child is.
Knowledge is power. After a child is diagnosed, it's essential that you learn as much as you possibly can about your child's disability. Learn the appropriate treatments, the ways the disability can affect your child, and what services are available in your area.
Your child is unique. As you learn all about your child's disability, keep in mind that not all of the symptoms of his or her diagnosis will fit your child perfectly. Take what fits and ignore the rest.
We are none of us alone.
Support for parents, general information and education:
- National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities - center that provides information on disabilities in children, programs and services, and many other resources
- Wrightslaw - special education law and advocacy for children with disabilities
- March of Dimes - dedicated to improving the health of babies
Emotional, social, and behavioral:
- Children and Adults with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder - support, resources, and understanding for those with ADD and ADHD
- The Balanced Mind Foundation - support and resources for parents of children with mood disorders
Thinking and learning:
- The Arc - support and information for people whose children have intellectual and/or developmental disabilities
- LD Online - information on learning disabilities and ADHD
- Learning Disabilities Association of America - information and resources for parents, teachers, and professionals
- March of Dimes - information about birth defects, including congenital heart defects
- Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America - resources for support groups and clinics and educational information for patients, caregivers, and health professionals
- American Diabetes Association - educational information about living with diabetes and support resources for parents and children
- The Muscular Dystrophy Association - resources for individuals and families
- National Organization for Rare Disorders - information, support, and resources for patients, families, and medical professionals
- SPD Foundation - sensory processing disorder research, education, and advocacy
- National Association of the Deaf - advocacy and educational resources for deaf and hard of hearing people
- American Foundation for the Blind - information about living with vision impairment