Kid's With Special Needs

Parenting A Child with a Disability

If you have a child with a disability, you are not alone. Millions of parents in the United States are raising children with disabilities. Many resources (including fellow parents) can help you along the way. Here are some tips for parents:

  • Learn as much as you can about your child’s disability.
  • Find programs to help your child.
  • Talk to your family about how you’re feeling.
  • Talk to other parents of children with disabilities.
  • Join a support group.
  • Stick to a daily routine.
  • Take it one day at a time.
  • Take good care of yourself.

An important quality that you will need to nurture in your child is called “self-determination.” Children who develop this quality have a sense of control over their lives and can set goals and work to attain them. Self-determination is important for all children. But researchers have found that students with disabilities who also have high levels of self-determination are more likely to become adults who are:

  • Employed
  • Satisfied with their lives
  • Living independently, or with support, outside of their family homes

Here are some tips to help your child become self-determined:

  • As early as possible, give your child opportunities to make choices and encourage your child to express wants and wishes. For instance, these could be choices about what to wear, what to eat, and how much help with doing things your child wants from you.
  • Strike a balance between being protective and supporting risk-taking. Learn to let go a little and push your child out into the world, even though it may be a little scary.
  • Guide children toward solving their own problems and making their own choices. For instance, if your child has a problem at school, offer a listening ear and together brainstorm possible solutions. To the extent that your child can, let your child decide on the plan and the back-up plan.

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Programs and services

Related information

Every state has programs and services that can help you meet your child’s and your family’s needs:

  • Early intervention services try to address the needs of children with disabilities and the needs of their families as early as possible. Often, the sooner issues are addressed, the better the outcome. Examples include nutrition counseling for parents, physical therapy for a baby with cystic fibrosis, or sign language lessons for a deaf child. Services vary by state.
  • Special education and related services ensure that each child is given a free public education that accommodates his or her special needs. The law requires that every student with a disability have an Individualized Education Program (IEP), which is a plan for that child’s education. The IEP includes a list of the services, accommodations, and assistive technology your child will need to succeed in school. Parents of a child with a disability are an important part of the team that writes the IEP. To the extent that they can, children with disabilities should also be encouraged to take part in writing the IEP.
  • Parent Training and Information (PTI) centers provide parents with information about disabilities and legal rights under laws involving children with disabilities. PTIs can also tell you about resources in the community, state, and nation. PTI centers conduct workshops, conferences, and seminars for parents. And many have libraries where you can borrow books and videos. Every state has at least one PTI. Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs). CPRCs do the same work as the PTIs, but they focus on reaching underserved parents of children with disabilities. Underserved parents include low-income parents, parents with limited ability to speak and write English, and parents with disabilities.
  • Parent to Parent is a program that provides information and one-to-one emotional support to parents of children with disabilities. Trained and experienced parents are carefully matched in one-to-one relationships with parents who are new to the program. The matches are based upon similarities in disability and family issues.

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