Kids with Special Needs: A Quick Guide for Parents
Children with special needs are those that have mental, physical, developmental or other health challenges. Being a good parent to them is also a great challenge, but one that comes with well-earned rewards. Read on for advice for your day-to-day management.
- Keep to flexible routines and rituals. Families with special needs children need structure in their days, but enough wiggle room to handle emergencies that may come up. Post a family calendar, set alarm clocks, and be ready with backup plans.
- Have a good sense of humor. A positive attitude will carry you through easy and difficult days alike.
- Find the right support. You may find that people who do not have children with special needs are not very understanding. Answer people's questions, but ignore cruel remarks and stares. It is important to find the people who will be supportive of your ups and downs. Reach out to other parents of kids with special needs in your community for support and advice.
- Play and have fun with your child. Build loving memories outside hospitals and therapists' offices.
- Be prepared. When you go out, keep a bag of emergency supplies with you, know where the exits and bathrooms are, and always have a backup plan. If your child has a meltdown in a public place, you'll be ready.
- Don't compare your child to others. Your special needs child is developing on his or her own clock. Even if your child does not master some things, remember that people with disabilities are abled differently in other ways, just like everyone else.
- Trust yourself to make the right choice. You may be faced with some difficult decisions. Don't be afraid to fight for what's right. You are the one who knows your child best.
- Make sure your child is participating equally. Help your child make friends and have fun by encouraging them to do arts and sports, and hosting birthday parties and play dates with kids in school. Prevent school bullying by being aware of your child's activities. Invite your child's teachers home for dinner to get to know them, volunteer at the school library, or help chaperone field trips.
- Look to your other children. The siblings of a special needs child are often left out, which can cause resentment. Give them individual attention and be fair in the house rules so you are not favoring one child over another.
- Make time for your marriage. Parenting and marriage are both hard work, and you need to take care of both if they are to be done well!
- Take care of yourself. Keep up with your hobbies or simple pleasures, like your favorite music or going shopping. Seek professional help if needed. Do not feel like you have to be a superhero all the time. You are a parent like any other, just trying to make it through the day.
- Believe in your child. Use empowering language and words. Your child will pick up on your attitude and strive to be the best they can be!
For More Information
- Navigate Life Texas has comprehensive resources and services for children with special needs and their families. Site also available in Spanish.
- Texas Parent to Parent is an organization that brings parents of children with special needs together for mutual support.
- Download and print Parenting Your Child with Developmental Delay and Disabilities, a tip sheet from our Parent Resource Library.
- HealthyChildren.org, Your Right to Special Services – Chronic Conditions and School
- HealthyChildren.org, Healthy Children Radio: Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs by Dr. Jennifer Lail
- www.parentcompanion.org, A guide for Texas parents and caregivers of children with diagnosed or suspected disabilities from birth through 5 years of age.
- www.partnerstx.org, Non-profit agency that operates the Texas statewide network of Parent Training and Information Centers, which provide training, education, information and referrals.
- www.texasprojectfirst.org, the Texas Education Agency website created by parents of children with disabilities. It has a wealth of information on special education.