According to the Census Bureau, there are almost three million children living with disability across America. Caring for a child with a disability can be difficult. It presents a set of new and unexpected challenges to parents. Their special needs may vary greatly depending on their disability, from hearing loss to learning and developmental disabilities, and because every child is unique, there is no one right answer for how to raise them. There are, however, a number of measures that can be taken to provide a supportive and healthy environment in which they and their siblings can thrive.
Experts agree that for the healthy development of a child with a disability, it is important not to set unrealistic goals or compare them to other children. Rather than focusing on your own dreams for your child, understanding and supporting them in their journey is important. This helps them to reach their own potential with much healthier results. The alternative will put them under pressure and place unnecessary emphasis on the impossible rather than achievable.
Avoid Burdening Siblings
While it is normal to expect siblings to help to some degree, relying on them too much can breed resentment. This can further lead to new difficulties. It is unhealthy to burden siblings and impact their studies or the ability to socialize. To that end, dividing your attention between your children where possible will make a big difference. It is natural that the majority of your attention may be focused on your child with special needs. However, putting aside some time to be alone with your other children will help avoid feelings of being left out.
Maintain Normalcy in Family Activities
Maintaining a level of normalcy where possible is also important. Engaging in and including your child in regular family activities such as day trips, play dates, and meals out are some examples. This is especially true when siblings come into the picture. Engaging in these activities as a family rather than avoiding them is vital. You need to do this to help the child with special needs feel included. Simultaneously, this will allow their siblings to enjoy life as normal, without feeling as if they are being denied normal fun events.
Be Careful During Holidays
Holidays and day trips to the beach are becoming easier each year as accessibility standards improve. Ramp access and sand chairs (wheelchairs specially designed for the beach) have made trips to the seaside smoother than ever. However, CPFN explains that hot weather can be particularly uncomfortable and even dangerous for children with special needs. Medication-related complications may occur as a result of hot weather. Here are some times to be careful.
- Wheelchairs often heat up, leading to sweating, discomfort, and potential burns. Wheelchair umbrellas can make a considerable difference in this regard. Extra care is required for non-verbal children who are at particular risk of dehydration and sunburn.
- If your vacation involves hotel stays, preparation is key in reducing the risk of unpleasant surprises or complications. Researching a hotel and its locale before booking can help you decide whether it is a good fit for your child’s needs.
- Taking extra medication and a portable ramp are two more ways to make traveling a much smoother experience, preparing you for any eventuality.
Raising a child with special needs presents parents with a number of unique challenges. However, you can overcome these. With the right support, your child can reach their full potential. The awareness of parents is increasing with easily available commercial as well as government resources.