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Special needs parenting

Having a child with special needs - either through disability or illness - can create huge strains for them, for you, your relationship and their siblings.

As parents you may feel you have no time for yourself. A child with special needs may resent or be worried about being different; and siblings may feel that you spend too much time on one person just because they are more 'difficult' than others in the rest of the family.

As you may have already discovered, there will not be an easy fix. However, bear in mind that equipping yourself with a few basic skills may help to make a difference.

Broad range of conditions

The term 'special needs' covers a wide variety of conditions and illnesses including autism, ADD/ ADHD, Down's syndrome and dyslexia, to name but a few.

One of the things worth considering is that 'special needs' will be a phrase you will hear over and over again and that it means different things to different people.

It may, for instance, refer to medical requirements, day-to-day help at school or occupational therapy. Be prepared to accept that while 'special needs' is meant to show that a child requires extra help to achieve things in life that others take more for granted, not everyone will view your situation in a positive light.

It may seem that every time you have faced up to and solved one problem, a new challenge lies ahead - often more complex and insurmountable than the one before.

There may be times when having a special needs child can seem the most difficult thing in the world and other times when they seem to have unique and rewarding gifts.

Self-esteem

As stressful as things may be for the whole of the family, your special needs child will also be experiencing similar stresses. Poor social skills, difficulty communicating, problems with motor skills and struggling with schoolwork can lower self-esteem when he compares himself with brothers, sisters and friends.

However hard as it is, try not to compare your child's achievements and development with their peers or others in the family.

Be prepared to lower your expectations but try not to always see your child through his or her condition.

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