Special Kids...Special Needs
One of my favorite characters in Pixar’s “The Incredibles” movie is Kari the babysitter. She really takes babysitting seriously, bringing along Mozart CDs for neurological stimulation and flash cards for cognitive development. Baby Jack-Jack, nonetheless, quickly proves to be her greatest challenge. While the Parrs are away, Kari leaves a series of messages on their answering machine:
“Mrs. Parr, it's me. Jack-Jack is fine, but weird things are happening… Jack-Jack's still fine, but I'm getting really weirded out! When are you coming back?... I'm not fine, Mrs. Parr! You need to call me. I need help, Mrs. Parr!” As we find out at the end of the movie, Jack-Jack can turn himself into a fireball, a lead weight, and a little devil, among other things. When Kari calls back again later she politely explains, “Sorry for freakin' out, but your baby has special needs.”
It can be a traumatic experience when parents are advised or observe that their child is developing in a way that is somehow different, although not necessarily inferior, to that of other children. “Special needs” is a general term referring to certain medical, mental, emotional, behavioral, or educational needs in a child that require extra attention and assistance. This includes a wide range of diagnoses, from genetic abnormalities and physical disabilities, to mental impairments or emotional disorders. Giftedness can also be considered a special need.
As with any child, raising a special needs child comes with its own set of frustrations and delights. Common problems these children encounter include: walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, learning, making decisions, getting along with others, taking care of themselves or doing simple everyday tasks. Everyone is an individual, however, and even if the child has a “label” attached to his or her special need, it does not mean that his or her particular needs will be exactly the same as others with the same condition. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and the child may have trouble in only one specific area or many different areas.
Dealing with a child who has special needs of any kind is challenging and requires a great deal of effort. But whether they have a rare genetic disorder or a common learning disability, it’s important to keep in mind that a special needs child is a child first and foremost. If the child is experiencing difficulties in certain areas, you can focus on the abilities he or she has, not what he or she can’t do. Try to make the child feel worthwhile and give him or her as many opportunities as possible to lead a fulfilling life, and you will significantly enhance the future of your special needs child.
"Whether we can walk or not, whether we can sing or not, whether we can create great works of art or simply manage play-dough, whether we can solve complicated mathematical equations or not, whether we can obtain our Ph.D., or merely complete vocational training, our value is still the same….Be certain that in the eyes of our Maker, we are equally precious and valuable." ~Author Unknown
“Thou formed my inward parts; Thou weaved me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Thy works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from Thee, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed, and in Thy book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”
You Will Dream New Dreams, by Stanley D. Klein. (Inspiring Personal Stories by parents of children with disabilities: cerebral palsy, juvenile diabetes, autism, mental retardation, and a host of other life-altering chronic conditions and injuries. Their messages resound with courage, encouragement, and hope.)
Parents' Complete Special Education Guide, by Roger Pierangelo and Robert Jacoby. (Has the information necessary to survive and interpret the rules regarding the educational, social, vocational, and environmental needs of your disabled child, explaining each phase of the child's educational development, from early intervention through working with the special education process.)
NICHCY (The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities is a referral center that provides information on disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals, with a special emphasis on birth to 22 years. This is the best website for general special needs information and is a good starting place for new parents of special needs children. It contains many Fact Sheets and papers that can be downloaded for free.)
Types of Childhood Disabilities and Other Special Needs (Here you will find resources, practical and current information about a wide range of childhood disorders and special needs, carefully described and researched by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. Most of the information is available in both English and Spanish.)
www.danieljvance.com (Daniel J. Vance and his wife are raising and homeschooling a 10-year-old daughter with spina bifida and a 9-year-old son. His self-syndicated weekly newspaper column, "Disabilities," has been published in more than 190 newspapers. If not in your local newspaper, you can receive it free each week via email by request, and you can also read the column on his website.)
Fisher Price Special Needs Guide (Fisher Price offers activities for helping your special needs child. Their recommendations for children with special needs emphasize play stages—not ages—because all children develop at different rates.)
Let's Play! Project (Play is how kids grow; it's what they do. All children need opportunities to discover and actively explore the world around them. However, for many young children with disabilities, play is often limited. The Let’s Play Project at the University of Buffalo, Center for Assistive Technology, provides tips on selecting toys for children with disabilities, and offers free downloadable resources.)
Parent Pals Special Education Resources (A special education community where parents and professionals share information and offer support.)
Family Village (A global community of disability-related information for persons with cognitive and other disabilities, for their families, and for those that provide services and support.)
Come-Unity (Articles and resources for parenting children with special needs or disabilities.)
Disabled Online (An online directory of resources to benefit people with disabilities including employment opportunities, recreational programs, and travel destinations. Also provides interactive tools, chat rooms and classifieds.)
www.SpecialNeeds.com (An online book store that specializes in books, videos, DVDs and related items about disabilities and special needs.)
www.nathhan.com (National Challenged Homeschoolers Associated Network - NATHHAN - the website for Christian Families Homeschooling Special Needs Children, equipping parents to confidently raise their children with special needs or disabilities.)
Homeschooling Special Needs (Ten Steps to Successfully Homeschool Children with Special Needs.)
Disability is Natural (Thought-provoking site on disabilities as a natural part of the human experience.)
From My Heart (Scroll down the left side to find poems about loving a special needs child. Includes Edna Massimilla’s beautiful poem, “Heaven’s Very Special Child,” a must-read for every special needs parent.)
See Also: Learning Disabilities... or Not!
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