Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford
Parenting a Child with Special Needs
Parenting in and of itself can be very challenging, especially for new parents, parents with limited financial means, single parents, etc. However, when you add the stressors of caring for a child with special needs, normal everyday problems and issues can become exacerbating and seemingly debilitating. Parents of special needs children often feel alone in their struggle in dealing with and managing their child’s unique needs. Often upon learning their child is abled differently, most parents react in ways that have been shared by a lot of other parents, such as with disappointment, anxiety, depression, guilt, and even shame. One of the first reactions parents have upon learning their child may have special needs is denial. Denial appears as not accepting the apparent differences between their child and other children within the same age group, “this doesn’t run in our family, the doctor doesn’t know what he or she is talking about, my child doesn’t walk because he or she is lazy, he or she just doesn’t like to be touched”.
Unfortunately, upon discovery of a child’s special needs frustration and anger can often negatively color communication between parents. Positioning parents against each other I regards to who is “responsible” for their child being abled differently. Upon early discovery of the special needs of a child the anger can appear so intense that it touches and influences almost anyone, because it is triggered by the feelings of grief and inexplicable loss that one does not know how to explain or deal with. A lot of anger is motivated by feelings of powerlessness to change what is happening, and difficulty with acceptance. Although, parents cannot change the fact that their child is abled differently they can change how they act and react to the diagnosis.
Fear is another immediate response for parents that learn their child have special needs and may require additional support. There is fear in the unknown, sometimes crippling. This is true because parents are not sure what to expect of the child in the future, whether they will have a “normal” future. People are seldom fearful of things that have occurred in the past because the thought process is, they know what to expect. Having no prior experience or awareness of what is occurring can create feelings of fear and anxiety for parents as there is no frame of reference to tell children what to expect in the future.
Support groups focusing on families with children having special needs is an important step in identifying with other parents, gaining additional information about the child’s diagnosis, as well as reducing the feelings of isolation once they begin to meet and socialize with other parents of children with special needs.
Aiden is a three-year-old physically healthy young boy. He is the youngest of three children. Aiden achieved his developmental milestones earlier than his older siblings and presents with verbiage more sophisticated than children within his own age group. Aiden prefers routine and often becoming angry when there is a change in routine, i.e., changes made in the arrangement of his toys, food, etc. He also appears overly sensitive to perceived loud sounds. Aiden talks a lot, usually about a favorite subject, which creates a one-sided conversation. He also avoids eye contact or stares at others. He appears to have delayed motor development as he does not appear to have a stead gait when he walks. Is Aiden just meeting his milestones differently at different times or is this case that requires evaluation by a physician?