One in seven children aged between 3-17 in the United States have developmental disability, while over 35% have a physical disability, the Office of Population Affairs reveals. Raising a child with special needs comes with plenty of challenges. It’s therefore important you work to give your child the best support possible, and set them up for an independent and fulfilling life.
Research your child’s condition
After your child’s been diagnosed with a disability, it’s important for you to learn as much as you can about the condition. Not only will you then be better prepared to identify possible medical complications as they arise, but you’ll also be able to advocate for your child’s health to the best of your abilities. Many developmental disorders, in particular, impact physical health. Take autism as an example: it often results in difficulties eating, gastrointestinal upset, and sleeplessness. When you’re educated on the associated symptoms, you’ll have an easier time identifying effective solutions. Weighted vests and blankets, for example, can be used to improve quality of sleep.
Teach your child how to be independent
Plenty of children with disabilities grow up to live independent lives as adults. You can help give your child the best chance of independence in the future by encouraging and nurturing key skills early-on in their life. This can be as simple as giving your child household chores like cleaning or drying dishes or folding laundry when age appropriate. In turn, your child will develop self-confidence in their own abilities and decision-making skills. Additionally, taking your child out and about with you and learning how to ride the bus or subway together will get them used to being out in various public environments.
Take advantage of therapy
Whether they have cerebral palsy, dyslexia, ADHD, or health issues, children with special needs often benefit from therapy. Therapy is essential for teaching your child coping skills; they can learn how to manage uncomfortable feelings with the guidance of a certified professional. Therapy can also help children gain emotional and behavioral self-regulation, which helps them stop overreacting to people, situations, or other stimuli — a problem commonly experienced by children with disabilities.
Get legal help
In some cases, a child’s disability may be the result of an injury caused by the negligence of someone else. For example, cerebral palsy is a brain injury that occurs either before, during, or after birth — it’s often the result of medical negligence or malpractice. In this situation, a cerebral palsy lawyer can help families recover financial compensation. Lawyers can work with healthcare specialists to draw up a care plan estimating the lifelong costs of your child’s care. This involves everything from medical expenses and lost income to physical pain and suffering experienced by your child. The lawyers will work to obtain maximum compensation to cover these lifetime costs.
Prioritize play time
Play can be therapeutic for all children and particularly children with additional needs. So, research local sports and art groups in your area and enroll your child. Giving them the opportunity to socialize outside the home will help your little one develop confidence in social situations, as well as develop lasting friendships. Moreover, children with special needs also benefit from being active, regular exercise, embracing challenges, and learning new skills. In fact, the key skills your child develops through playing with children their own age will help them throughout life. In particular, through social play, your child will learn to work well in a team, how to compromise, and leadership skills.
Build a support system
It’s natural for parents of children with special needs to feel lonely and overwhelmed at times. However, you don’t have to do this alone. In fact, you won’t be able to provide your little one with the best support possible unless you’re able to ask for help when you need it. Family and friends, in particular, can be useful in talking through problems and brainstorming solutions. They can also take the reins at times, so you have a chance to rest and recharge. If your child needs support academically, ask their teacher about possible ways to help them in school. You can also look for online and local in-person support groups to provide you with advice and support; simply talking through and listening to the experiences of parents in similar situations can be extremely valuable and reassuring.
Raising a child with special needs is as rewarding as it is challenging. By taking the time to understand your child’s condition, encouraging independence, taking your child to therapy, getting legal help, socializing your child, and building a strong support system you’ll be in the best position possible to provide them with the support they need to thrive.