Being Special to the Special – Support the Family with Special Needs

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By Susan Heckler

Having a special needs child can be very challenging. It can make your role as parent exponentially harder because of behavior issues, physical difficulties or just needing some additional learning reinforcement. When your child is finally diagnosed and there is a name put on his special needs, you may feel a sense of relief but your work has just begun.

Putting a label on your child’s disabilities changes nothing. It may enlighten you as to the cause, possible symptoms, research being done and modifications you may need to implement. It defines the path you have to take to do the best for your child, but your job has just begun and you may have a long road ahead.

As a friend or family member, you may be living through this difficult time with the parents. You hear the anguish in their voices and the fear of the challenging times ahead. There are a few things you can do to show support and ease their burden:

• One of the most beneficial things you can do is show support. Let the parent know that you are there for them, whether it is as a listener, shoulder to cry on, babysitter, tutor, or just plain friend.

• A natural reaction to having a child that stands out is to avoid uncomfortable situations. Do your best to be inclusive of their child and encourage your children to show acceptance to avoid isolation.

• Your child is special, but so is theirs but in a different way. Accentuate the positive and let the parent know you see the progress the child.

may be making. Avoid talking about your own child’s accomplishments
if possible.

• Be sensitive and think before you speak. Your good intentions may not land the way you intended.

• Many people find it difficult to ask for help. Don’t wait for an invitation to give assistance, jump in there and let them know you care.