“Planning for a child with special needs is not as easy as 1-2-3”
When a couple starts a family, many imagine raising a healthy child in an environment that affords them the opportunity to succeed. Parents may already envision sending their child(ren) to camp or signing them up for after-school programs. It’s perfectly expected. Today, there are many times where children that are born with special needs may still accomplish goals parents have set out to accomplish, but with a different trajectory. Recent estimates in the United States show that about one in six, or about 15%, of children aged 3 through 17 years have a one or more developmental disabilities.1
The term special needs is an all-encompassing phrase which can refer to a vast range of diagnoses and/or disabilities. Children with special needs may have been born with a syndrome, terminal illness, profound cognitive impairment, or serious psychiatric problems. Other children may have special needs that involve struggling with learning disabilities, food allergies, developmental delays, or panic attacks.2
Learning of such news about their child(ren) may leave parents and a whole family devastated. Most parents may feel a sense of hopelessness because they are now entering a “new life”. Many that experience something new may have a sense of not knowing what the right answers are. Imagine the last time you found yourself in a state of discomfort or a new role at your job. Rather than walking away, you may embrace it and figure out how to handle the circumstances as they arise. If you discover that you may have made a mistake in some regard you learn from it and move on.
Raising a child with special needs is anything but a linear progression. There might be moments where you find yourself in a state of disbelief and exhaustion and have no idea where to turn. You may feel like you are trying to climb a mountain that perpetually gets taller with every climb you make. There are so many questions that one may have:
- “What educational programs can my child be enrolled in?”
- “How are they going to fit into society?”
- “How am I you going to handle my other personal and professional responsibilities while undertaking an overwhelmingly stressful role as a parent, caregiver, advocate, and everything in between?”
- “How am I going to afford to afford raising my child?”
This experience establishes a “new normal” way of life. It does not mean everything will turn against you, but rather learning to embrace the experience may take some time. One of the first steps in embracing this experience is establishing a coordinated team that are available to assist you. It may consist of social workers, therapists, and financial and legal professionals.
This team may alleviate a lot of the stresses you may not have to endure on your own. Whether it be enrolling in programs, creating suitable therapy treatment(s), or babysit so you may simply take a break to have alone time is critical. While being a parent is the most rewarding yet can also be an exhausting role that one could ever ascertain, having a child with special needs even more so requires you to be in the best shape, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
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