The Special Needs Community

In today’s world, raising a child with special needs is easier than ever before. Families of all skills are coping with this changing landscape in a recent poll by Parents.

The way we regard children who are not developing as expected, or, in other words, children with special needs, has undergone a significant shift. Pinterest’s “Special needs blogs” board has more than 3,500 pins (and counting) on it, and the plotlines of the TV show “Sesame Street” have a special-needs theme. Several problems were previously only observed in specialist schools and doctors’ offices that are now part of everyday life for parents. According to the CDC, a 17 percent increase in parental reports of developmental impairments in children occurred between 1997 and 2008. This equates to about ten million youngsters worldwide. According to the most recent statistics, there is a diagnosis of autism in one in every 88 children.

Our April 2014 issue of parents has a 20-page special needs feature dedicated to the society we all live in, regardless of whether or not we have a diagnosis. More than 500 parents of children between the ages of 3 and 12 were questioned by Quester, a Des Moines-based research firm, to understand the needs of these families better. For the first group of diagnoses, we used the Individuals With Impairments Education Act, federal special education legislation requiring public schools to serve students with disabilities. ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays and disabilities like Down syndrome, epilepsy, hearing and vision impairment, behavioral/conduct disorders, arthritis and joint problems, and physical disabilities like cerebral palsy were some of the conditions we chose to focus on in our research.

The following are some of the more eye-opening results of the survey:

  • More than one-fifth of the mothers polled support the idea of separating children with disabilities from their peers in the classroom because of their diagnoses.
  • Nearly one-in-four moms of usually developing children wonder if their child should be checked for a possible abnormality of development.
  • According to mothers of special needs children themselves, children’s illnesses are overdiagnosed only 17 percent of the time. The percentage rises to 30% among mothers of children with typical development.
  • More than 89% of children with special needs parents believe that their children are happy with their social network. Seventy-nine percent of mothers of children with typical development offered the same reaction.
  • More than one-third of moms of kids with special needs and one-third of moms who are typically developing have spoken to their kids about persons with disabilities.
  • Of the mothers of children with disabilities, 32% are more likely than the parents of generally developing children to recognize the unique needs of another child.

In their comments, mothers were open and honest. Mothers with children with special needs want other mothers to be aware of the following:

  • “Although I may appear tough, I am just as vulnerable as my child. I’m not sure why it’s not visible to you.”
  • “Do not advise me to take a deep breath and let go. Making time for doctor visits and therapy sessions is never easy. There are insurance companies to contact, insurance forms to complete, and children who need additional attention and praise. It’s a lot of work.”
  • I still enjoy adult friendships (with moms of children without special needs) even though we can’t participate in many of the same events as other families with kids our age.
  • “If you’re going to brag about your usually developing children, be more discreet. Even though we are grateful for our children, we are saddened that they will not be able to share in some of the experiences that others may take for granted.”