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Understanding Children With Disbilities

Updated on August 31, 2009

My reasons for writing this hub

I have been working with disabled children for over 26 years and in those years of service I would like to give some helpful tips for new parents of special needs children. I have never personally parented a disabled child, but I "have" had the privilege of foster caring a special needs child for 4 years coupled with over 26 years of experience with the blind and multi-handicapped. In 1990 I became the father of a stillborn daughter who fell

victim to gestational diabetes, and this lens is dedicated to my beautiful Brianna. Working for all those years or should I say having been privileged to work with these gifted children allowed me to witness first hand the emotional stress that the parents of special needs children face. The stress of their child being labled and misunderstood because they may have looked different or acted differently from the average child. There are people who don't understand how precious these children are because of the obvious disability itself distracting from who the children really are, a child who needs love, care, affection

and attention just like any other child. For people who are looking at a disabled child from the outside and not being associated with them on a personal level may find it very easy to feel sorry for these children, but feeling sorry will only hinder the potential of the child and stop them from being everything that they can be. When I first started working with these children I felt sorry for them, but as time progressed I began to see what they had to offer in the form of their way of showing love, their gifts talents and abilities. I no longer saw them as disabled, but I had to remind myself, not to make too many demands on them, because they "were" disabled.

The patience factor

Patience is a must when dealing with a special needs child because the child may not be able to mentally process what is happening in their environment. It is important to explain to them what is about to happen before moving them so that they do not become startled. Even though a child may not be able to comprehend what is being communicated it does make a difference emotionally. Think of a parent talking to a newborn baby... obviously the baby cannot comprehend what the parent is saying, but there is an emotional connection that otherwise would not be without communication.

Patience is birthed through frustration and disappointment

There are no how-to manuals or educational information that can teach one how to have patience, but life teaches one, because it teaches what and what not to do.It teaches a parent valuable information that they previously may not have known about their child and themselves,and that they "do" have what it takes to raise their child. Even though there are disabilities that may be identical in nature... every child is not the same, because they have their own personality and makeup. The frustrating and disappointed times that accompany the special needs child along with the positive and rewarding experiences are both needed to move a family forward. The second thing that patience does is complete the parent. By completing I mean that the parent will look back over the childs accomplishments and find it very rewarding. I know from my own personal experience that It was very rewarding for me to know that I had helped a child to learn new skills and accomplishments. Working with a disabled child is like a marathon race in that one learns through patience that it is not how fast one runs the race, but through patience endure the race until the finishing line is endure not tolerate because one can never change what is tolerated. A person who tolerates has simply learned to survive what they feel will never change.To endure means to be consistantly the same until a specific goal has been reached. 

A look through the eyes of parents with special needs children

I have also had the opportunity to care for a special needs child in my home for about 4 years, but I still am not an actual parent. I have talked with numerous parents because that was part of what my job consisted of, but I think It would be better in this section of my hub to allow you the reader to read from the experience of actual parents of the special needs child.

a. Take the time to find a good pediatrician because all pediatricians are not created equal. Find the one who will answer your questions and that you feel is a good fit for your child. A pediatrician who has not had the experience of working with special needs children, may tend to be afraid even to the point of shying away and so the comfort level must be mutual between doctor and child.

b. When the child starts school the parent must be the childs supporter because there will be case conferences and Iep's (Individual Education Plans).Pay attention to everything and don't lose the paperwork you will be receiving.

c. Stick up for your child because one can become intimidated by the experts, but you being the parent have a knowledge of your child better than anyone.

d. Learn to be flexible because it is very important with special needs children

e. Do make it a priority to place your child in as many social events as possible

f. Don't hide them away from the world because doing so may do more harm than good.

g. Always show your special needs child that you love them! just as much as you love your other children (if you have more)

h.Make sure that your childs educational placement is appropriate, but above all that it has no repercussions such as peers with severe behavioral problems.

I. Do not put all of your trust and hope in therapy

J. Be honest about the stresses that you are under

K. Adapt to your childs world and don't try to get them to adapt to yours

Take out needed time for yourself

Many homes that have a special needs child will often have a missing parent because of the guilt associated with the child. The stress will have become so great that parents place the child in a group home or some other program away from home because of being exhausted and burned out. This is in no way a criticism but a reality and the parent need not feel guilty. But if guilt is a problem, seek help and counseling. Many times a parent will have given themselves totally and

unconditionally, but when nothing comes back in return,they burn out.Taking time out for oneself is necessary to continue forward. Like a car running on empty, it must stop and refuel, or it will never reach it's destination. In my job experience I have witnessed the community at times to be rude by staring and making rude remarks towards the special needs child. This troubles me because the children are human with feelings also, but on the other hand I have also experienced kind and generous

people who would go out of their way to give or do something wonderful for the children. If you happen to be a parent who wonders why me? well it just could be because you are the only one on this earth that can give what the child needs to make them smile and to feel comforted. No one else can love and understand your child like you, You are your childs answer to unanswered questions they may have, and while others are sleeping you are the one who willingly remains up all night to sooth the pain. Yes, you are a special parent for a special child.


 Many special needs children may find it hard to comprehend instuctions or not be able to communicate how they feel, and because of this may find themselves becoming frustrated and angry. Everyone becomes upset at one time or another, but for the special needs child who may find it hard to convey their emotions they vent in the only ways that they know how. For each child it is different, but their are 10 non-verbal calming techniques that I have been trained to use and have seen while in "action the effectiveness" that they bring. These techniques are not a guarantee but may help to defuse certain situations. 

a. Redirect to another activity: Starting a person on another motivating activity may serve to defuse the situation. Think about it even as adults this strategy is used when a husband or wife uses something that motivates the other to bring peace to a hostile situation.

b. Eye Contact: Making eye contact often helps people gain control. Many parents use this technique with their children because all it takes is eye contact for the child to know the parent is serious about what they are saying.

c. Close proximity: Standing close to someone can make them feel secure but this technique can also be seen as threatening, for example teachers use this when someone in class is talking, and instead of disrupting the whole class, the teacher slowly walks over and stands next to the student talking while continung to teach. This lets the student know in a quiet way that they are being watched.

d. touch: Some people may find light physical contact reassuring, some may not.

e. Effective use of space: Try to position yourself and the individual in the area to both ensure safety and relieve tensions.

f. Body Posture: Try to convey a calm in control mood by using a non-threatening body posture.

g. Planned ignoring: This is not neglect, but a plan to not give attention to mildly disruptive behaviors.

h. Facial Expressions: Friendly facial expressions tend to be calming.

i. Provide access to preferred objects and environments

j. Facilitate Relaxation

Why Me? (parent recognition)

You are your childs inspiration and reason for living, you have learned through the trials of life to never stop giving:When days are dreary and hope seems so far away, you found the God given strength to make it through another day.Many people would not have the courage and diligence to do what you do, to continue pushing forward with persistence until you have found your way through; so why me? you may ask with ferver and disdain, the answer will come with time and seasons through the child that bears your name.                     



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    • susanne71 profile image


      8 years ago from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

      Absolutely wonderful hub. I have an Autistic son and this sort of information in invaluable, especially for people who don't live it and otherwise wouldn't understand.

      Thank you!!

    • Cari Jean profile image

      Cari Jean 

      9 years ago from Bismarck, ND

      WOW! What a great hub! As the mother of a special needs daughter, you hit everything right on! Thank you so much.


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