Do you have a child with special needs? Is he/she diagnosed with a learning disability?
So, how to deal with a child with special needs? Well, parenting is hard. Educating children is difficult, but it can be overwhelming for parents having children with special needs.
Not only at home but your special needs child also needs special attention and needs to be dealt with with specific tactics by their teachers, guides, and religious coaches as well. However, most of us don’t even know the basics of dealing with children with special needs.
Every child is different and so should the ways of dealing with them different as well. Regardless, affection, respect, and encouragement is the basic necessity of every child. For children with learning disabilities, this affection and love should be translated in a way that the child best understands and acknowledges.
So, today I am here with a few parenting techniques and tactics that will help you deal with a child with special needs, thereby boosting their confidence and making them excel in life. Before going to the techniques we need to first understand the types of disabilities to know what needs they have and what tactic suits them best.
Understanding children with special needs
‘Special needs’ or sometimes referred to as ‘additional needs is an umbrella term that refers to a wide range of disabilities and impairments. These disabilities include physical, mental, emotional, or psychological needs. Some of these disabilities might even become worse with age and some might become less overwhelming with time. The extent of these disabilities also varies from person to person and from child to child.
We can broadly classify the disabilities into four broader categories i.e.;
a) Physical disabilities
This refers to sensory impairments and physical challenges. If your child has difficulty in hearing, speaking, seeing, and smelling or faces difficulty walking, sitting, standing, or performing any other normal physical activity then you need to pay special attention. This also includes chronic diseases like asthma, serious conditions like heart defects, congenital conditions, or health threats like food allergies, etc. Some of these might be treatable, but others can last a lifetime. You would often have to step up and be there for them which can be exhausting at times.
b) Mental disabilities
Mental disabilities refer to various genetic disorders which can severely hamper and affect the learning capabilities of your child. Diagnosis like Lawrence moon bardet biedl syndrome (LMBBS), down syndrome, autism, dyslexia, auditory processing disorder (APD), or other genetic disorders tend to remove your child from the mainstream and alter your way of life immensely. In such cases, parents usually have to adjust, make accommodations and cater to the needs of their special child throughout their lifetime. Your visions of your future might also go under a drastic change and you may face difficulties initially in responding to your child’s needs.
c) Emotional challenges
Emotional challenges include behavioral problems and disorders like ADHD, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), Tourette’s syndrome, etc. These disorders cause serious behavior issues and temper problems which can be hard to discipline. In such cases, parents have to be very flexible with their children and forget the traditional ways of discipline.
d) Psychological problems
This refers to mental health problems like anxiety, stress, depression, or attachment issues. Depression and Anxiety can as much affect a child as they can an adult. Remember that there is often no apparent reason for depression so thinking that your child will get better on their own will worsen their condition. Timely intervention would be needed in such cases. Remember that you have to be very patient with your child and find the right mental health professionals.
So, no matter what the disability and how severe it might be, certain needs are associated with these impairments. These needs must be taken care of by their close relationships and teachers or mentors alike if you want your child to live a healthy, normal life.
8 Ways to deal with a child with special needs
1- Observe your child
For a child with special needs, you would have to sharpen your observational skills to better understand them. These children are often unable to express their feelings or their needs in words which is why they may be acting a certain way. If you observe them you would know the pattern and understand their behavior in a better way.
Know that children are often unable to express themselves. This irritability causes temper tantrums or the anger and crying sprees that they indulge in. For a child with special needs, it may be even hard to express themselves. If your child has any of the above disabilities then their way of communication would be entirely different than your other normal kids.
So, you need to be very vigilant around them. They might not be able to express their discomfort, pain, or hurt to you in words. But, remember that if you look closely you would identify these emotions through their facial or body cues. The more you observe their non-verbal language the more you will be able to understand and cater to their needs properly.
2- Interact with your child like you would with your friends
Interaction and communication is the key to any healthy relationship. Most of the time the biggest mistake that parents and other adults make while dealing with a child with special needs is that they fail to interact and connect.
This might be due to the feeling that the child is different than others or they might be unaware of the strategies they can use to connect with the child. However, the same rules of communication should be used while interacting with a child with special needs.
Just as most of you hate being asked questions similarly almost all children hate questions. If you start a conversation with a child with special needs without introducing yourself first you will most probably be left without an answer. So, you should never start a conversation by asking questions.
Rather, you should introduce yourself first. Use your body gestures like taking the child’s hand in yours’ or placing it on their face. Start with something fun like discussing their favorite cartoon or a new drawing they made.
If your child just came back from school then don’t try to bombard them with questions about the work or the tests they gave. Instead, let them relax, and ask how their day was after a while.
Remember that it’s all about Inclusion and making your child feel that they are a part of the conversation instead of making a suspect out of them by asking questions.
Related; 9 Effective Communication Skills That You Need To Master
3- Know that your child looks up to you more than anyone else
Always remember that your child looks up to you more than anyone else. If you remain optimistic and look at things as a challenge then your child will also follow your lead. While raising a child with special needs you need to act as a role model for them. Parents are the first learning institution of a child.
Their initial years of development are spent in the company of their parents. For a parent raising a child with special needs, you must keep calm and be optimistic around them.
If you look at their disabilities as challenges then your child will also try to overcome them or at least never lose hope thinking they can’t achieve certain milestones due to their physical, mental, emotional, or psychological challenges.
Also, you need to look at the strengths of your child too. Remember that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses alike. The same goes for your child. They might not be good at algebra, physics, or chemistry, but they might be good at painting, dancing, or gaming.
Focus on their strengths and facilitate them in achieving their fullest potential. Being different doesn’t mean being odd, rather it makes them unique. Never make their life get defined by their disabilities.
4- Pat them on their every little achievement
Sometimes all that we need to make effort and try despite all odds is encouragement. The same goes for your child with special needs. It doesn’t matter if he/she can’t be as good or as brilliant as his/her peers are, but what matters is trying.
So your kid might have a learning disability due to which they would be unable to pick up things as fast as their peers. But, if that doesn’t stop them from trying despite failing then you should at least encourage them for their efforts.
Remember that raising kids is hard. Raising kids with special needs is even harder. You will have to transform into many different roles to cater to your child’s needs. You will have to be their best friend, a teacher, a confidant, and a parent all at once.
This might be overwhelming at times compelling you to ignore their little achievements just because they are not worthy in comparison to what other kids their age are doing.
However, you need to remember that your child tried so hard to achieve it. You need to accept their place of learning and encourage them in their every little accomplishment because this is what best they could do.
So, always pat them for their every little accomplishment. Your little appreciation will make them feel valuable and happy even beyond your imagination.
5- Never make them feel they are less than others
It’s normal for parents raising a child with special needs to overdo their care. You might go to extreme lengths while protecting your child. Although parents might be justified with their extreme protective measures yet you need to let your child breathe and experience some independence a bit.
This overly protective behavior might make your child feel that they are less than others or aren’t capable of doing certain things.
Remember children with special is just as sensitive to their surroundings as are other kids. They might be unable to express themselves appropriately, but almost all children with special needs are more sensitive.
They can judge your tone and sense when you are mocking or joking around. For this reason, you need to facilitate them instead of making them feel as if they are something unusual. This attitude also lowers your child’s self-esteem.
So, you need to be facilitating instead of controlling and defining what they can do and what they can’t. You have to encourage them at every step and never compare or belittle their achievements.
Related; 8 Ways to Stop Taking Everything Personally
6- You can’t change them but you can change how you behave
The biggest problem that parents dealing with children with special needs face according to Guardian is the prejudices and behavior of the people. This negative attitude affects parents to the extent that it translates into their behavior with their children.
Parents in their frustration stop taking their children out at all in an attempt to protect them from the comments of the passersby. Though there are people who empathize with you too yet there are also a lot more people who don’t refrain from being rude and judgmental to you. So, instead of getting affected by people’s attitudes and trying to change your child be accepting of them.
You know people are going to talk even if your child was the smartest, kindest, or the most intelligent of all. However, no matter what people say you as parents should never impose unrealistic expectations on your child. Accept them as they. Set realistic expectations.
You need to remind yourself of the limitations your children face and you need to accept them as they are. Know that these disabilities can be dealt with if you support and encourage your child throughout.
But, if you as a parent force them to do something they can’t do then their self-esteem would be destroyed for life. So, know that acceptance doesn’t solve a problem, but it sure does make finding the solution easier.
Related; How to Stop Caring About What Others Think
7- Be patient with your child
Your child might not have taken their first step. He might not have spoken his first word while your neighbor’s child whose six months younger has started talking fluently.
Knowing that other children half the age of your child are doing better can make you impatient and often inconsiderate of your child’s disabilities. However, you need to remember that every child is different. Therefore, each child’s learning and growth process is also different from another.
Also, know that your child senses environmental cues. If you panic and take stress regarding your child’s growth then your child will also feel that they have disappointed you. Remember children with special needs are very sensitive to their environment. So, instead of stressing over why your child isn’t growing like others understand that this can affect your child.
Instead, be patient with them. Understand that every child grows at their own pace. Cherish their little moments because once they grow up you won’t experience them.
8- Remember you are doing great!
Parenting a child with extra needs is extra hard. You are doing that and that too with such dedication. You need to be proud of yourself for that. Not everyone is strong enough to deal with a child with special needs. Now, you will have days when you would be too tired to deal with your child.
You will be tempted to get frustrated and angry. But, remember that you are also human and you will have your low days. However, despite all of that you still are doing a great job. You can’t be perfect.
You will have your highs and lows, but that is completely okay as long as you don’t wallow in self-pity for days.
So, pat yourself on the back quite often because despite all odds you still are managing yourself, your family, your house, your work, and above all your differently able child!
Related; A Step By Step Guide to your Self-Love Journey
Dealing with a child with special needs is like running a marathon. You will have to be a constant source of support, love, and affection to your child, which is not easy at all!
You will have to be patient with them and make hard decisions for them too. However, despite all this, if you still manage to make it to the end, enabling your child to be self-sufficient along the way, you won! You just need to be consistent and never lose hope in your child because that is what makes your child’s life a bit easier.