10 Things You Should Know About Children with Special Needs

Stress, guilt and uncertainty are the norm for parents of children with developmental disabilities. The doling out of pity and those can't-you-control-your-kid? glares are commonplace. Feature writer Jessica Charles walks you through 10 reasons why you should show support and a little understanding for these super-parents in her touching and unsettling piece "The Downside of Special" in the April issue of Canadian Family

10 Things You Should Know About Special Needs10. A special needs child is not the result of bad parenting but rather a genetic deviation that, according to Stats Can, over 200,000 families live with on a daily basis.

9. Parents of children with special needs experience the same feelings of loneliness and isolation as their children and often need just as much mental, emotional and physical support that their children require day to day.

8. Although minimizing the problem, i.e. “I’m sure it’s just a phase. My kid went through it too.” may seem like a statement of understanding, it is just considered a more subtle form of rejection of both parent and child.

7. The public narrative, fed by Hollywood depictions of the relationship between a special needs child and their parents as a “learn what love really means,” experience, is vastly different from the private narrative that occurs in the homes of everyday families dealing with the “anger,” “embarrassment,” “despair,” “mind-blowing costs,” and the “difficulty of navigating the school system.”

6. For every 20 individuals who offer their services to parents with children who have special needs, only 1 or 2 offer any real help. “Desperate parents are easy marks…private speech pathologists, osteopaths, naturopaths, developmental pediatricians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, friends, family-everybody’s got an opinion.”

5. Parenting a special needs child shifts the role of motherhood from nurturer to “über-researcher, activist and tireless networker.” Parents often feel that they loose out on “having fun and playing” with their children because they are too busy shuttling them from appointment to appointment with little to no outside assistance.

4. Marriages can suffer from a lack of attentiveness between partners due to the fact that all of the mental, physical and emotional attention is being paid to the child.

3. The things that parents often find “endearing or lovable” about their special needs child is almost always overshadowed by their child’s very visible and “most mortifying” actions in a public circumstance.

2. Depending on the severity of a child’s developmental disabilities, a parent will often find themselves “whoring after playdates” with other children. This statement begs the question of “What are parents of ‘normal’ children teaching their kids about tolerance and inclusion?”

1. In a Hallmark-esque reflection of raising a child with developmental disabilities, “(We) look at some issues that stress out moms whose kids are typically developing-a kid who talks back or doesn’t do his homework-and know that would be a piece of cake.”

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