“We have no special needs children. Just children…with special needs.” – Uwe Maurer

Special needs" is an umbrella term for a staggering array of diagnoses. Children with special needs may have mild learning disabilities or profound cognitive impairment; they may have food allergies or a terminal illness. A child's special needs may include developmental delays that catch up quickly or remain entrenched. It may also refer to children with occasional panic attacks or serious psychiatric problems. Children with special needs may have mild learning disabilities or profound cognitive impairment; they may have food allergies or a terminal illness.

A child's special needs may include developmental delays that catch up quickly or remain entrenched.

There are four major types of special needs children.

  1. Physical-- Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis, Chronic Asthma, Epilepsy, etc.
  2. Developmental--Down syndrome, autism, dyslexia, processing disorders.
  3. Behavioral/Emotional--ADD, Bipolarism, Oppositional Defiance Disorder
  4. Sensory impaired--Blind, visually impaired, deaf, limited hearing.

Developmental Issues: Developmental disabilities are some of the most devastating for a family to deal with. This can change your visions of the future and provide immediate difficulties in caring for and educating your child. Diagnoses like autism, Down syndrome, and intellectual disabilities often cause children to be removed from the mainstream. Quite often, parents become fierce advocates to make sure their children receive the services, therapy, schooling, and inclusion they need and deserve.

Learning Issues :Children with learning disabilities like dyslexia and auditory processing disorder (APD)struggle with schoolwork regardless of their intellectual abilities. They require specialized learning strategies to meet their potential and avoid self-esteem problems and behavioral difficulties. Parents of learning-challenged kids need to be persistent. This includes working with your child at home as well as teachers and schools to ensure they get all the help they need.

Mental Health Issues:Realizing that your child suffers from anxiety or depression or has attachment difficulties can be unexpected. Again, every child will be different, yet these can leave your family dealing with a roller coaster of mood swings, crises, and defiance. It's important that parents find the right professionals to help. You will also need to make decisions about therapy, medications, and, possibly, hospitalization. The consequences of missed clues and wrong guesses can be significant.


“ I wouldn’t change you for the word but I would change the world for you “ unknown

(Sourced and Paraphrased from works by Deborah Carpenter)

1. Accept the fact that your child — like all children — is imperfect

It’s not easy to accept that your child might not be normal, but a child who senses his parents’ resentment is unlikely to develop the adequate self esteem he’ll need to become a happy, well-adjusted adult.“For a child to feel accepted and supported, he needs to feel that his parents have confidence in his abilities,” says Ken Brown-Gratchev, Ph.D., a special education instructor at Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon. “.

2. Don’t believe all the “bad news” about your child.

It’s no fun to hear school employees describe your child as “slow” or unmotivated or even “naughty”. But don’t let negative remarks deter you from advocating for his educational needs. After all, kids with ADHD can succeed if they get the help they need. Just like with any other medical illness like asthma or diabetes, there need to be certain adjustments in the way your child learns/ is taught.

“While it’s true that your child’s mind works differently, he certainly has the ability to learn and succeed just like any other kid,” says George DuPaul, Ph.D., professor of school psychology at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

3. Don’t overestimate the importance of medication

There’s no doubt that for many children the right medication makes a huge difference in behaviour. But, by no means is medication the only way to go. Letting your child believe this will make them feel like their good behaviour wasn’t their own achievement. When you catch your child doing something wrong do not ask, “Did you forget to take your medication this morning?”. “Statements like these give your child the impression that her behaviour is controlled solely by external factors,” says Dr. Brown-Gratchev.

4. Make sure you know the difference between discipline and punishment.

The common complaint is “I’ve yelled, lectured, threatened, given time-outs, taken away toys, cancelled outings, bribed, begged, and even spanked — and nothing works!”. “Many parents use the terms ‘discipline’ and ‘punishment’ interchangeably,” says Sal Severe, Ph.D., the author of How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will Too! “In fact, they’re vastly different.” Discipline, teaches the child how to behave. It includes examples of good and bad behaviours along with positive reinforcement for good behaviour choices”. Punishment, on the other hand, uses fear and shame to force the child to behave. Punishment certainly has its place; however, it should never involve physical or verbal abuse,

5. Never punish a child for behaviour that he is unable to control.

In many cases, a child with ADHD won’t listen; not due to defiance, but simply because he becomes distracted from the task. Distractibility is a common symptom of ADHD — something out of his control. And when you repeatedly punish a child for behaviour he can’t control, you set him up to fail. Eventually, his desire to please disappears and he thinks “Why bother?”. The best approach might be simply to remind your child. Punishment makes sense if it’s clear that your child is being defiant — for example, saying “NO”.

6. Stop blaming other people for your child’s difficulties.

Are you the kind of parent who finds fault with everyone except your child?Note that other people can contribute to your child’s problems. But trying to pin the blame exclusively on others encourages your child to take the easy way out. Why should she take personal responsibility for her actions if she or you can blame someone else?

7. Be careful to separate the deed from the doer

Kids who repeatedly hear bad things about themselves eventually come to believe them. No matter how frustrating your child’s behaviour gets, never resort to name calling e.g. lazy, hyper, spacey etc. Carol Brady, Ph.D., a child psychologist in Houston, explains it this way: “Parents must make ADHD the enemy — not the child. When you personalize a child’s ADHD-associated problems, her self-esteem plummets. But when you team up with your child to problem-solve various negative behaviours, you create a climate where your child feels loved and supported despite her shortcomings.”

Next time you and your child come across an obstacle e.g. tidying up, ask for her help and input and solve the problem together.

8. Don’t be too quick to say “no.”

All children need to be told “no” at certain times. But many parents say “no” reflexively without thinking about it. And a child who hears “no” too many times is apt to rebel. It is important to know when to say “no”, and when to just say “yes”. In many cases, a small change in the way you use the words “yes” and “no” with your child can mean the difference between a pleasant interaction and a nasty confrontation. Instead of automatically saying “no”, Dr. DuPaul says to “ask him to help you brainstorm a workable solution.” That way, he feels that he has some say in the situation and that you are trying to accommodate him. He will feel more cooperative.

9. Pay more attention to your child’s positive behaviour.

In their quest to quash behaviour problems, many parents overlook the good behaviour. The resulting negativity can wither a household, affecting every aspect of life.

“… look at the positives,” says Dr. Severe. “Catch your child being good or doing something well, and praise them. When you point out and praise desirable behaviours, you teach them what you want — not what you don’t want. Bear in mind that some of the problem behaviours you see may be common to all children of that age.

Make happiness and laughter priorities, have fun and play with your children, visit museums, take them to the movies, having a child with ADHD is challenging but also rewarding.

10. Learn to anticipate potentially explosive situations.

“Parents spend a lot of time in reactive mode instead of thinking ahead and planning ahead” says Dr.DuPaul. A simple plan, he says, is all it takes to keep a positive experience from turning into a negative one.

Whatever you do, be consistent. “All kids benefit from consistency,” says Dr. DuPaul, “ADHD kids, in particular, need consistency. It’s not a luxury for them.” Last minute changes to regular routine can wreak havoc with a child who already feels like she spends most of her time off-balance and “catching up.” Better to have set routines and plans and do all you can to stick to them.

“Set your home up in a way that encourages organization and responsibility, then run it like an army barracks,” suggests Shirley McCurdy, an organizational expert and the author of The Floor Is Not an Option. Make sure you and your spouse are in agreement on matters of organization and discipline. When parents present a united front, their children know exactly what to expect. Ultimately, the more predictable and consistent your child’s environment becomes, the happier the whole family will be.

11. Be a good role model.

Parents are a child’s most influential role model, so think carefully about your behaviour. Kids will copy your example. Therefore “Yelling sets a poor example of how your child should handle his emotions,” says Dr. Brady. “Parents tend to think that, the louder they get, the bigger the impact on the child — but it doesn’t work. The only thing the child hears is the anger. The situation quickly spirals out of control.”

It’s perfectly normal to feel angry at your child from time to time. It’s not OK to continually shout at her. Next time your child does something that causes your blood to boil, calm down and take deep breaths, or do something else to calm yourself. When you demonstrate self-calming techniques in this way, you teach your child the importance of managing her emotions. If you do lose your temper, do not hesitate to apologize to your child for doing so.

12. Seek help from others.

Some things in life simply cannot be done well alone, and raising an ADHD child is one of them. Ask your paediatrician for the name of a psychologist or other mental-health professional who specializes in ADHD.

Quotes for parents

“Parenthood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you’d have. It’s about understanding you child is exactly the person they are supposed to be. And, it you’re lucky, they might be the teacher who turns you into the person you’re supposed to be.”The Water Giver

“Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be and that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be.” ~ Joan Ryan

“Hang on tight and get ready for the wildest, saddest, happiest, most challenging and most rewarding ride of your life!”~ Sylvia Phillips

Useful Links