Raising kids with special needs should never be considered a burden. All things considered, it shouldn’t be very different from how other children are raised. The values, life skills, and education they need would be the same. The big difference families of special children feel, however, is primarily caused by external pressures.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that still has not completely understood special children. When they become adults, they will understand more their rights. They would be able to access Social Security disability claims or grants, and demand for the services they need. But while they are children, they are fully reliant on their families.
There are four types of children with special needs — those who are not fully developed physically, those who have developmental needs, those that have behavioral or emotional needs, and finally, the kids whose senses are impaired. Definitely, because of these limitations, they will need extra care and support. But other than these, the children will go through the same phases that other children do and will therefore have similar needs.
As parents or family members, more than trying to change environmental conditions to help the children, these are what they would need most.
Feeling of acceptance
Of course, it would be counterproductive if you deny their difference from other children. However, you need to make them understand and feel that even if they are different, they’re accepted. They’re not just tolerated, as tolerance has its limits. Moreover, they have to feel that it’s not their fault why they have these limitations.
Children, when treated negatively compared to others, would question what they did wrong to deserve such treatment. You need to make them understand that they did nothing wrong. Although it could be too early for them to fully comprehend it, you have to explain to them the nature of other people. But within your family, they should be able to feel that they are accepted.
In line with their feeling of acceptance, they need to feel the support of at least their family members. Of course, like with any children, you shouldn’t side with them when they commit mistakes. They still have to know right from wrong. But when they are bullied, when people find fault in them just because of their condition, you have to stand up for them. Moreover, teach them how to stand up for themselves.
They also need to feel free to approach any member of the family for either help or just for any kind of communication. The most damaging force to them would be their pent-up emotions. Children who have developmental needs are often misunderstood because they could not always articulate themselves. Each member of the family has to have patience in communicating with them. The moment they are shunned, they might close up.
A normal environment
Don’t be too overprotective. Allow them to interact with other children. As was discussed previously, if they are bullied, don’t leave them to fend for themselves. Talk to those who are bullying them. More importantly, talk to them. The sooner they would know how to defend themselves in these negative situations, the better they could navigate society on their own.
Despite your knowledge and experience in parenting, you will need guidance in taking care of your child. Even if, for example, the limitation is physical, experts have developed methods in how best to help them. It could be a simpler way of navigating around the house, or of exercises that would build muscle strengths in their limbs that could function. Never try to save money by thinking to do things on your own. You are setting boundaries for the child when he or she could develop further with professional assistance.
As has been said, other than their limiting circumstances, children with special needs are no different from other kids. They need the same nutrients, the same love, the same social exposures. Raise them with extra support, but treat them how you would any other child.