How to Deal With Special Needs Children

A parent who has a child with special needs can feel isolated and alone in the journey to fulfill her child’s needs 12. Knowing what to do and where to turn for support can benefit both child and parent.

Coping and Learning

Developing coping skills and learning to locate support resources is a significant step toward dealing with a special needs child 23. The National Information for Children and Youth With Disabilities encourages parents to know that they are not alone and suggests that they talk with family and friends, spiritual advisers or counselors, and other parents in similar situations. The Parent to Parent Program is provided through NICHCY services, and parents can locate other parents who have exceptional children. The program offers at least one Parent Training Information Center in every state, as well as Community Parent Resource Centers, which offer families a wide range of services.

Change Your Focus

The Ask Dr. Sears website reveals that the breakthrough in the Sears family came when they stopped focusing on what their child with Down Syndrome was missing, as this made him more of a project than a person 1. It was then that they began to enjoy him for his true self. Ask Dr. Sears states that it took two years to come to terms with his son’s condition and that parents should recognize that all children are special. Don’t compare your child with a child who does not have disabilities. Align the dreams for your child with what is possible, live in the present and set appropriate expectations. Assure your child that different isn’t inferior. View your child’s behaviors as signals of what he needs and help him build responsibility skills. Give him choices that will help him develop a sense of purpose and which will also allow you to value his abilities.

Behavior Management

Kids Health emphasizes that parents need to manage the behavior of their special needs child, noting that punishment is not the focus of behavior management 12. Parents should set realistic boundaries and communicate expectations in a nurturing, loving way. This is one of the most important ways for all parents to demonstrate that they love and care. Being consistent will help your child predict what will happen in her life, which will help her feel confident and safe. Rewarding positive behavior and redirecting negative behavior with natural consequences is a proven method to help your child learn positive behavior skills.

Avoid Triggers

The National Association of School Psychologists explains that exceptional children are influenced by the ways adults express their emotions, based on the child's past experience and also on his awareness of the current situation. For this reason, it is best to keep your expressions positive and calm. The NASP further describes special needs children as having specific “triggers” or words, images, sounds and things that signal danger or disruption to safety and security 3. Often, these cues are a result of past experiences, traumas and fear. The organization advises parents to pay attention to the warning signs that their child is having difficulty, which often can be observed in facial expressions, nervous tics, changes in speech patterns, sweating, felling ill, becoming quiet or withdrawn, complaining or being irritable, exhibiting fear or having an avoidance response. Parents should anticipate these triggers, and when parents see the signs of distress, parents should quickly respond with assurance, support and attention to avoid escalation and loss of control. The NASP suggests that if there is a loss of control, the child needs to be removed to the safest place available to calm down, so that the parent can talk to the child about the triggering fears or situation.