Caring for a ‘special needs’ child is somewhat different than that of a ‘typical’ child. The term ‘special needs’ can carry many connotations and meanings. There are a variety of special needs ranging from muscular dystrophy to autism, from mental retardation to Downs Syndrome. All special needs children and their families are different, depending on the needs of the children and the acceptance level of the family. It often takes a team to raise a special needs child, and with the proper tools in place, it can be a blessing.
Special needs children sometimes require medical intervention for conditions as serious as heart defects and cancer. These children are also sometimes susceptible to an array of food allergies, which can mean the difference between life or death for them. Knowing the nutrition and medication facts are imperative in caring for these children with vulnerable conditions.
Some children often have complicated medical equipment that requires extensive training to ensure it is running correctly. This can often create stress, both physically, mentally and financially. This combined with possible and or frequent hospital stays, can mean a variety of complications for the entire family.
When children have behavioral issues, the challenge takes on a new role when traditional discipline methods fail. This is often present in children who suffer from such issues as, attention deficit disorder, (ADHD), Tourettes, or autism. These children often are afflicted with sensory issues that effect their perceptions, thus making daily life more difficult. The best strategy for parents and caregivers is to practice patience, flexibility, and most of all creativity when working with children with disabilities.
In mental retardation, autism and Downs Syndrome, the care is often different, due to developmental delays that are present in the child. This can often cause issues in behavior and institutional learning strategies, and require more intensive therapies. The developmental disabilities make it hard for social and peer interaction, as well as their rapidly changing areas of progression or regression. Specialists are available for teaching applied behavioral and developmental techniques.
Children with dyslexia suffer with advanced learning disabilities. These often necessitate more aggressive learning and teaching strategies to ensure that the child gets an appropriate education. Children with these, and other learning disabilities can be taught at their own level until they reach the fluency necessary for an introduction into mainstream schooling, or they can work with a special education teacher at their local school. Learning disabilities have little or nothing to do with intelligence. In fact, it was once thought that these disabilities were underlying in children within the higher spectrum of the intelligence level.
Mental health concerns are in the forefront of any child with special needs. This is not always due to the condition involved, but often in the support and care this child has received. Children with these issues tend to have up and down personalities, with frequent mood swings, defiance, or in rare cases, violence. Professional help is highly recommended for families at risk, with state services that run at no-cost for some eligible patients.
The most qualifying attribute to care for a special needs child is love. Without that, the child will not learn appropriate human response, empathy, or compassion. In special needs children, these are vital! They not only need our help, they need us to know and to understand them. Often, the prognosis can be greatly improved if a compassionate, empathetic, gentle approach, and or early intervention is involved, depending on the child’s actual condition.