Around 9.4 million children aged under 18 have special health or additional needs – as reported in The National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Some of the most common needs involve speech or language delays, ASD, cognitive delays, social and emotional disorders, and learning differences or disabilities. Parents whose children have just been diagnosed with one or more special needs embrace different strategies to ensure their child is as empowered and independent as possible. Information, integration, and seeking appropriate professional and legal help can all make the journey to a happier life easier and more palpable as a child enters the many stages of childhood and early adulthood.
When your child is diagnosed with a condition like cerebral palsy or another condition involving complex needs, you naturally want to ensure they have the best possible health treatments for their condition – some of which are novel or experimental. For instance, stem cell therapy is proving beneficial for many people with cerebral palsy, although treatment is expensive and you may have to travel to receive it. Therefore, ensuring your financial position is strong is important – especially if one or more family members has to take time off to care for their child. If medical negligence is suspected, seek legal advice early, as you may be entitled to compensation. It is also important to seek out any help your family or your child may be entitled to. For instance, SSI is a federal security administration program that provides financial aid for children with special needs whose families earn less than a specified threshold.
Scientists from the American Academy of Pediatrics have found that complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is becoming increasingly popular for a variety of disabilities. Indeed, around 12% of children in the U.S. are receiving CAM therapies. The idea behind CAM is to approach special health needs from a multifaceted perspective. The APA’s research shows that around 17% of children are on special diets (typically gluten or casein-free diets). Others, meanwhile, consume diets that are free of processed sugars yet contain probiotics and digestive enzymes. Diet is just one piece of the puzzle. There are many more approaches that have enjoyed success with children with special needs – including horticultural therapy, equine therapy, art therapy and music.
It is important to find out as much about your child’s condition as possible so you can discover specific areas your child may need help with. Many conditions and disorders, for instance, result in difficulties with communication. For small children, being unable to express their thoughts, needs and desires can be very frustrating. Augmentative and alternative apps, or AAC apps for toddlers, give younger children the confidence they need to communicate information to their family members, teachers and friends. Top apps like Touch Chat HD, for instance, display a plethora of images that display common emotions and requests, while AutisMate (created for children with ASD) creates real world scenarios with common phrases associated with each scenario. There are numerous apps that make communication not only less difficult, but also more fun. Available apps are catered to different age groups, so you can refresh your app collection as time goes by and your child’s needs change.
Being part of a solid social network is key when you have a child with special needs. Doing so will enable you to meet other families who can share information, advice, and experiences on everything to do with health and wellbeing. Online forums are also helpful in terms of finding information on new, promising treatments. Being part of a strong, committed group will additionally help boost your own mental health, since being part of a supportive community is vital when health challenges present themselves.
Empowering your child begins with receiving as much information as you can. This extends to legal/financial matters as well as information about your child’s condition and the best possible treatments available. Being part of a network will ensure that you stay updated on the latest treatments and educational opportunities, and will also provide you with first hand experience regarding programs and professionals that are best suited to your child’s needs.