5 Ways To Support Parents of Special Needs Children

Being a parent is hard. Being the parent of a child with special needs brings it to another level entirely.

The following is a community contribution from 'Just Breathe Connecticut', a therapeutic wellness center. It originally appeared on Ellington-Somers Patch.

There are countless reasons that special needs parenting is exhausting ... and then add to that exhaustion a sense of isolation. Many parents feel alone … worried … overwhelmed.

What can friends and family do to help?  Here are ways that to express that you care:

  • Offer to babysit so Mom and Dad can go out.  Ask if you could watch the children while they go to the grocery store, on errands, or even take a nap.  Give them an afternoon of self-care, pampering, or just time to do nothing.
  • Educate yourself on the special needs world - it really is a different world.  Take time to become educated about the specific diagnosis of the child.
  • Offer to accompany the parent to the child's medical and therapy appointments.  Getting a child with unique needs into a doctor's office and situated can be quite difficult.  If the parent has other children, offer to watch the other kids so Mom and Dad can go to the appointments alone with the special needs child. 
  • Give Moms and Dad an opportunity to share what’s in their heart and then listen.  Many parents feel disconnected from the world, themselves, and their families.  Reach out to them - let them know they're NOT alone. Don’t pretend like nothing is happening. 
  • Talk about your own kids' personalities, not their accomplishments.  It can be hard to be around typical parents, especially when they're bragging about their kids' accomplishments. Let's talk about who our kids are instead of what they can do.
Some of the greatest needs special needs parents have are understanding and friendship.  When friends and family take the time and effort to tangibly show these parents that they care, you become a connection they desperately need.

You join “their team.”

Are you the parent of a special needs child or close to a family with special needs struggles? What tips would you add to the list? Share them in the comments!

kevin sturm March 20, 2014 at 06:31 PM
to glenn and carl ..one word ...assholes !!
Carl Petersen III March 20, 2014 at 06:34 PM
kevin sturm March 20, 2014 at 06:31 PM "and carl ..one word ...assholes !!" ___________________________________________________ huh?
Vicky Fountain March 21, 2014 at 11:23 AM
I agree with every suggestion except the last one. No parent should have to feel embarrassed or ashamed of their own child's successes. A parent of a special needs child should have the maturity to be pleased for a friend whose child has accmomplished something special, without turning it into a "woe is me!" scenario. Both parents should be able to brag on their kids, and expect kind, civil reactions from the other. The shared joy should be in the fact that a child accomplished something, not in comparing them to each other.
Laura Mathes March 21, 2014 at 11:36 AM
There is an event group on Facebook (Autism New Jersey Friends) based in Ocean County that books places for their group so that people can meet up and be with others like themselves and children so they all have friends. It is extremely lonely as you have to live it to understand it. Even going to parks with a child that is 'different' can be a horrible situation as many disabled do not look disabled so people say and do terrible things and it is not just the kids. People need to raise their children better. You need to find an outlet for yourself and child. I have made friends that I now have who 'get it' and now our kids are enjoying hanging out with friends :)
Just Breathe Connecticut LLC March 27, 2014 at 11:42 PM
As the author of this article - here in Connecticut - I'm so thankful for the supportive comments. As both the mother of a child with special needs and a licensed clinician, I hope the article has made us all feel a little more connected. As for the title itself - I was advised I had to keep it short. Rest assured people first language is my personal and professional norm.


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