Living with a Special Needs Child
Adjusting to life with a child who suffered a birth injury depends, to a large extent, on how much damage was sustained. Some children are able to lead a near-normal life with minimal adjustments, while others with moderate to severe injuries face bigger challenges from their brain damage and/or physical disabilities. These children may require significant accommodations in the home, at school, and with friends.
Life at Home
Children with birth injuries often have difficulty with fine motor control and gross motor skills. This means parents have to adapt the child’s environment to make it safer and easier to navigate. This could include:
- Installing special equipment such as a bath chair or a stair lift.
- Making the home wheelchair-accessible.
- Purchasing accessories like braces, supports, and cushions.
- “Baby proofing” your home for a longer period of time than usual, since your child’s developmental milestones may be delayed compared to children of the same age.
Life in School
There is an incredible amount of development that takes place in a child’s early years, especially the first five years of life. Even a mild birth injury can leave a child with the need for special allowances. In the United States, IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) mandates such children receive all appropriate services including special education and early intervention. An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed for each child to help them achieve their learning goals.
In school, children with learning disabilities often require extra tutoring and extra time to complete tests. You will have to work with the teachers at your child’s school to make educational life as easy as possible. This could include taking a tour of the school to anticipate difficult-to-navigate areas. You may need to devote extra time helping your child practice, prepare, and become familiar with the school routine.
Life with Friends
Children with disabilities often struggle with social interaction and find it difficult to make friends. You will need to be vigilant about bullying and discrimination. Special education counselors are trained to help such children develop social skills. Nonetheless, if your child is confined to a wheelchair and cannot run around with the other kids, life with friends can be a challenge.
Involve your child in as many activities as he or she is able. Get your child excited about extracurricular activities in which they can participate. Sign up for a kids club in your community. Join a library or parent-child reading group. Find out about youth events at your church. The more social outlets you explore, the better is the chance that your child will find at least one special friend from all the children in the group.