Indeed, the term special needs is associated with disabilities and implores parents as well as stakeholders in the community to ensure their children get special assistance and accommodations for their medical, psychological and learning deficiencies. However, the use of the term special needs has led to the creation of a cloud of darkness over children and is making them feel that their needs can only be addressed if they have certain deficits. All children have special needs at different stages of their development and require effective accommodations to allow them to attain the critical milestones in their life journeys. These needs are not deficits but are the care, leadership and love that children require in their lives.
Certain children may have more needs due to their medical, physical as well as psychological uniqueness and deficits. While a parent may have a child with special needs, such as learning disabilities or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), all children may require more support due to their own unique differences from others. From a developmental perspective, the needs of a particular child may not be different from their “normal” peers. All children have needs at various points of their life development, from childhood to adolescence. For example, they may feel awkward and different in certain situations. Some may be battling insecurity and lack of self-esteem, as well as confidence crises in their interactions at home or school. These children may be challenged by circumstances that they cannot control.
Parents of children who have developmental challenges in the form of conditions like autism, anxiety disorder, ADHD as well as developmental trauma, have demonstrated that good parenting is always a game-changer for special needs children. Learning disabilities present challenges to certain children, and it is only through effective support that the children can feel secure and comfortable among their peers. When parents raise children with special needs, the care and stress levels may be significant and complicated because such circumstances shift the family foundation by increasing the complexity of the entire parenting process. The implication is that parenting becomes a source of light and wisdom for the involved parents who can inspire others to attain their own parenting goals.
What makes such parents exceptional is their ability to handle the special needs and overcome inherent challenges. This includes locating and accessing effective resources and treatment interventions, as well as therapies to help their child live a better life. Further, exceptionality arises as parents and family members strive to cope with the emotional and physical demands of these disabilities and specialized care. Special needs children require constant monitoring that translates into numerous appointments with health care providers, therapists and school personnel. A parent must ensure that he or she provides all the necessary support to their child by providing them essential access to services from these providers.
When a child has a special need, it does not mean that he or she has a deficit, but it constitutes a unique difference from others. What is worrying is the notion that parents and educators try to diagnose a special needs child so that they can work out a plan to “fix” the child. Children do not need to be fixed but need to be allowed to interact in the most positive environment despite the deficits that they may have or demonstrate. Parents and teachers should not try to “fix” children because of what they believe in. They should instead help children to understand their unique situations as well as how they can attain positive social interactions at school and home. Children should not be discriminated against by parents and educators who feel that they require special education and approaches. As exceptional parents, they must worry about balancing the needs of their children as opposed to differentiating them as either “with special needs” or “normal.” All children are normal but some may have deficits in one area or the other. The implication is that parents must offer effective leadership such that no child feels isolated due to their physical, mental, psychological and physiological deficits. Parents should develop effective relationships with all their children, irrespective of the disability that they have. What is evident is that as a parent, one must consider that all children have special needs because of all the challenges in growth and development.
The special needs that arise in children should be a source of light and wisdom. These children demonstrate that special needs are a critical component of allowing society and its members to provide leadership that is transformational and considers all people equal. Transformational leadership inspires and places trust as well as confidence even in the least important member of society and families. Servant leadership calls on parents who make self-sacrifices for the sake of their children’s happiness. These two leadership styles are crucial to the development of all children.
Anthony Cupo is a trained mindfulness facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!