Parenting is rarely easy, but parenting a child with special needs can require an extra set of skills. Your child may have been born with a specific diagnosis or it may present itself as the baby begins to develop. Whatever your situation, here are some suggestions that may make the journey easier.
1. Find a pediatrician you have confidence in and feel comfortable with. Your pediatrician sees children all day, every day. He or she should be able to recognize any developmental or physical impairments. Your doctor might also refer you to a specialist for more testing or a specific diagnosis.
2. Educate yourself. Learn everything you can about what your child is experiencing and his or her diagnosis, if you have one. This can be your most important tool for success. The more you know, the more you can get needed help. When you are educated you are more able to advocate for your child. You are able to present doctors with any questions you might have. YOU—the parent, know the child best. A strong understanding about the disability will enable you to guide him or her through the ups and downs of life with greater success.
3. Early intervention can set the foundation for your child’s future. Most people know that from birth to age five the brain is doing a tremendous amount of growing and learning. A large number of skills are acquired during this time and it is important to give the child his or her best start in life by taking advantage of early intervention programs near you. Your pediatrician can give you a referral or you might want to check out more here.
4. Get some support. This is going to be one of the hardest things you have ever done. A special needs child can take a toll on the rest of the family and especially on a marriage. Your child will need a lot of your time and attention every day and this can put a strain on other relationships. Talk with other parents, join support groups—many can be found on Facebook or other websites or social media. These are a great resource for getting answers to questions as your child grows. Having the support of others who know what you’re going through can ease your burden immensely.
5. Be kind to yourself. You will make mistakes, you will wish you had done more, you will wear yourself out running to appointments and therapies, you will secretly grieve when other parents are bragging about the developments their children are making. All of this is normal for a parent in your situation. Don’t be too hard on yourself! You are most likely making great sacrifices to do all you can for your child.
Parenting a special needs child can be quite challenging but also immensely rewarding. Through your diligence and devotion you will be able to connect with your child like only a parent can. During times of struggle remember that no one knows your child like you do, and ultimately you know what is best for him or her. The more you prepare yourself to meet these challenges, the brighter your child’s future will be.