“It’s time we take our focus off disabilities and place it on capabilities, so we can see the person first.''
-Robert M. Hensel
Being a parent of children with special needs is a very responsible task. Although being a parent is in itself comes with a lot of responsibilities. The 2011 census data of India shows us 20,42,887 people are disabled in India. Among which, 4,17,657 have visual disability; 4,76,075 have hearing disability; 1,96,890 have movement disability; 1,14,621 have speech impairment; 91,673 are mentally retarded; 16,350 are mentally ill; 1,49,211 are having multiple disabilities and 5,80,410 are of other types of disability. Through the data, we can see that India has a large number of special needs people.
Every parent wants their child to be fit and healthy both mentally and physically. But there are few who lack certain elements of being healthy. As parents one must not disown or lose hope on the child instead accept it and live a life of our own kind of normal life. Although there are certain challenges but believing in yourself and your child will get you where you want to be, that is helping the child live happily.
What is the meaning of special needs children?
Special needs children are those children who are physically disabled, mentally retarded, who have speech and language impairment, emotional disability and learning disability.
- Physical disability: refers to problems like epilepsy, vision problem, hearing problem, chronic asthma.
- Mentally retarded: refers to problems like autism, processing syndrome and down syndrome.
- Speech and language impairment: refers to problems like not being able to express and speak properly.
- Emotional disability: refers to being antisocial and not being able to express feelings.
- Learning disability: refers to problems where the child’s mind is not able to process information from their senses.
What are the challenges faced by children with special needs?
Children with special needs are:
- Made fun of.
- Sexually abused.
- Secluded from being social.
- Face problem in making friends.
- Face loneliness.
- Face comments like “he/she is mad, leave it”
What are the challenges faced by parents of children with special needs?
Parents who have children with disability face a lot of challenges especially the mothers:
- Stress: Parents are usually very stressed out in the whole process as they have to take care of children, go to therapies with children. Especially the mother of the child gets really stressed out in the whole process.
- Become antisocial: As these children need special attention day and night parents are unable to get any time for social interaction like talking to friends and going out.
- Sadness and difficulty in accepting: Parents of special needs when get to know about their children’s disability usually don’t want to accept it and start to grief over. As they had certain dreams for their child and suddenly all gets shattered.
- Feeling of fear: Parents always fear that what will happen next? What will be my child’s future? What should we do to help my son/ daughter? Will I be able to make my child’s life happy, safe and secure? How will I protect my child from the negativity of the world?
- Always have guilt: Parents always have a guilt of am I doing enough for my child whenever they see that their child is not making any improvements in their behaviour. Parents usually want everything to happen at once.
What can parents do to help their special needs child?
1. Notice the red flags: First and foremost step is to notice the red flags in your child’s behaviour. If your child shows anything unusual talk about it with your spouse and other family members. If you are a working mother then, in this case, it may happen that the caregiver or other family members under whom your child is taken care of, they may see the red flags and inform you about it. Like, the child not responding when called by name, or laughs the whole day without getting tired, sit and move round and round or are unable to respond or speak or unable to walk or run unlike other kids of their age. These signs can be seen at an early age.
2. Seek help: In this situation, you must first visit the doctor. After that, if the doctor says anything positive seeing the reports about the child’s disability then go to the therapist. Therapists are of great help. You may be sad and would not accept that your child as special needs child, but when the doctor and other people are recommending you to seek help then you must not ignore the signs because one person can be wrong not all of them. Look for a good therapist. Go with your child to the clinic and sit with them. Look how the counselling or therapy is being done. Say a big no to the therapists who asks you to leave the child with them and go. Also, if your child does not seem to be happy and does not show improvement after visiting the therapist, like the child is constantly crying; this also shows that the therapist is not good enough for them. So, in this case, change the therapist. Seek help from your friends and family members. Be friends with parents of special needs children. Talk, share and learn from them. If you don’t know anything about the disability for example autism, then read articles, talk to your counsellor or therapist, and read books to gain knowledge about it.
3. Believe in yourself and your child: Don’t rely only on therapy because therapy is only for a few hours. Give time to your child at home too. Play with your child and teach them certain things. For example, most children cry or shout or get angry when they need something or want your attention. Teach them to tap your shoulder or come to you and show signs whenever they need something from you. Don’t expect things to happen all at once. Taking care of a child with special needs requires patience and understanding. Every child is different as an individual. Don’t compare them with other kids of their age and get sad saying “her child is walking and speaking and mine is not able to do the same.” Therapies will take its time and your child will show improvement, just believe in yourself and your child. If you will stay positive and happy then your child will automatically stay happy and positive.
4. Take out some me-time for yourself: It’s very important to take care of yourself. As mentioned earlier if you will be happy then your child will automatically be happy. Don’t stress too much on why things are not happening as you wanted. Let your children take their own time to develop. Take out time for yourself. For example, set a time at morning before your child gets up and do your favourite exercise or meditate, have coffee or tea, read books, listen to your favourite music and just relax for few minutes. This can be done any time on a daily basis. Just find out a suitable time for yourself and relax a little. It’s okay to take breaks. This will keep you motivated and you will not feel exhausted.
5. Socialize: Socialize with others. Go on a walk with your child in the afternoon, with your friend and your friend’s child. Let your child socialize with others. This will help in increasing your child’s level of comfort and will make them happy. Most importantly, other people will also know how to behave and mix with special needs children. Go to birthdays and other parties with your child. Just try not to limit your child and yourself to home and therapy clinic.
6. Education: Education plays the most important part of everyone’s life and so in special needs children too. Search for schools which give admission to special needs children. Try to get admission when you feel your child is ready for school. Don’t be in a hurry. Another option is you can provide education to your child at home too with the help of teachers. This will help them flourish in the subjects they like as their will be no time limit, no boundaries to play, no restrictions etc. Play and educate your child. As children love to play and enjoy so they will learn easily. If your preference is school, then make sure that your child is not kept aside or say secluded from others. See whether there is coordination between the teacher and the coordinator. Ask the school to organize meetings on a regular basis and seminars too. This will help you know your child’s strengths and weaknesses.
7. Understand your child: Taking care of special needs children is like taking care of a new-born child. You understand what your child likes and dislikes, what makes them angry, what makes them happy by giving them opportunities. Thus, understand your child, give them opportunities, try not to limit them and then analyse their behaviour.
8. Love your child unconditionally: Love is the foremost thing when a child looks up to the parents. Don’t get angry with them. If they understand slowly then explain them slowly and little by little. Don’t hurt them saying anything unusual and don’t allow other family members and friends to hurt them too. If there is a sibling then teach them to respect and love his/her special needs brother/sister.
Every child is special in their own way. Don’t treat them as a burden. They are the ones who will love you the most and they will make you a patient and understanding person. Count the little things in your life rather than seeking happiness on big and luxurious things, if you stay positive then things will go positive, your child will be positive and ultimately will show improvement in them.