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Parenting: Special needs children

When a parent learns that a child has a physical or developmental challenge - a special need - it can be the start of a long road filled with strong emotions and difficult choices.

As you raise your child, more will be demanded of you than of your friends whose children don't have the same problem. You will need to make many appointments for your child to provide special treatments, and deal with many professionals and specialists, not all of whom will be equally sensitive to how caring for your child's special needs is affecting you.

Over the years, you will continue to need information and services to help you adjust to your child's special needs at each new stage of development. And despite the challenges, there will also be the ongoing joys of parenting.

But sometimes it's hard to stay positive. You may feel isolated and alone, that it's just too much of a burden. That's understandable - it's a big job.

You might want to try the following suggestions to make it seem easier:

  • Look for and consider joining a group of other parents whose children have the same problem. They're going through the same thing, so they really know what it's like for you. They can tell you what to expect, and some of them may have found ways of helping their child or themselves that may really help you.

  • Try to keep a diary or journal - many parents find it useful.

  • Record your child's progress, details about the professionals you deal with and sources of help, so that you can feel more confident and in control.

  • Try not to worry too much about the future. Remember, you just need to deal with things one step at a time.

  • Try not to expect too much of yourself, or be too hard on yourself.

  • Get information from your local library or on the Internet.

  • Try to focus on your child's strengths and try not to compare her to others.

  • Be good to yourself. Eat properly, get enough sleep and exercise regularly. Try to build a support network of friends or relatives who can help look after your child while you get some time to yourself and to enjoy your important relationships. Your child will benefit from having a happier, less stressed parent.

If you are in Canada and wish to speak to a counsellor about your situation, or obtain information on the resources available to parents of children with special needs, contact Parent Help Line at 1-888-603-9100.

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