Because every child is special

 Mothers of kids with special needs struggle with the same child-rearing issues as other families - but the issues are often magnified. So, it is crucial that she gets support from the family or a professional, advises Surabhi Verma.

If you are a parent of a child with special needs, you, undoubtedly, have bigger challenges to overcome than you ever thought possible. There may be days where you feel all alone in your struggle. Maybe you've been so busy taking care of your child's needs, in addition to the rest of your family, that you have not had the opportunity to seek encouragement from those who have trekked a similar path. Mothers have always been an emotional support for the kids, but it is also important for other family members to help share the responsibility, especially if the child has special needs.

Every parent struggles with juggling the commitments of work and family. Women, especially, know this well. Mothers of kids with special needs struggle with all the same kinds of child-rearing issues as other families - but the issues are often magnified. There is always the disability to consider. Children with special needs require an overwhelming amount of time, energy, finances and attention from their parents. Whether the mother is working or a homemaker, a special kid needs both qualitative and quantitative time. It is very crucial that the caregivers get some support either from the family or a professional, so that they can manage their own stress, as well as learn effective strategies to help their children.

When we teach our children a task, be it academic or non-academic, we do task analysis. That is, we first break down the task into smaller steps. For example, brushing teeth would be identifying a brush, identifying toothpaste, holding the brush in the dominant hand, applying paste over the brush, and so on. This helps the child know exactly how to go about the activity, and lets us know where the child is stuck, what his/her strengths and weaknesses are, and how we can help the child. It is highly important that the parents pay more attention to teaching everyday skills and self-awareness as a priority.

 Motivating the child to learn by giving them constant reinforcements even for the smallest achievements in everyday life is an important strategy which helps the child and the parent to work together. As the child responds positively, this gives the caregiver the power to fight the situation and confidence to learn more. Talking to the child as much as you can, even if the child is not responding or not listening, is another important strategy to connect with the child.

All children have certain strengths and same is true for children with difficulties or special needs. The family and professionals should help them identify such strengths and take them forward, because if the child can develop interest in one activity, then, s/he might excel in it. The key to raising a well-rounded child is to establish a solid support system at home so that s/he grows up satisfied with ambitions and achievements. The goal as a parent is to help your child feel competent and confident, and to help him/her develop a sense of passion and purpose.

Being a parent of a child with special needs is in some ways a different, and many a time difficult, experience, but it is also just another journey of parenting, another day of trying to be a grownup, another test of being a responsible person. Parenting a kid with special needs sometimes means you are part of a transcendent world. Sometimes it means growing and changing, to be your better self and develop a specialised parenting tool kit. And sometimes it means you just need to be a regular old mom.

Every family has good days and bad days, but on the whole, raising children with special needs is not all that different from raising “normal” children. Parenting is challenging and fulfilling no matter what the circumstances are. Just living and cherishing your day-to-day life with your special child can truly be a gift. Then, simply watch how they shower love and affection on you.

(The writer is the director of Sparsh for Children and specialises in working with
children with special needs)

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