The rates of children with disabilities is increasing in the United States — one in seven children, on average between the ages of three and seventeen, is diagnosed with a developmental disability, while more than 35% have some type of physical disability, statistics from the Office of Population Affairs show. Caring for a child with special needs is an adventure that can be both rewarding and challenging. Researching all support options available can help your child live a fulfilling and independent life as much as possible.
It’s normal for parents of children with complex needs to be concerned about whether their child will be able to live independently in the future. The best way to set your child up for independence in later life is to start fostering it at home from a young age. For example, teach your child to perform chores like folding laundry once they’re old enough. This will help your child to build a sense of confidence and responsibility when they make their own decisions. Getting your child accustomed to going on public transport and doing everyday errands with you will also help them feel more comfortable in busy situations outside the home.
Get physical therapy
Physical therapy is often recommended by doctors to help children with special needs. It’s primarily used to build strength, improve movement, manage pain, and help children develop the skills needed to complete everyday activities independently. For example, children with cerebral palsy may require physical therapy to improve their motor development, mobility, stability, strength and flexibility. Cerebral palsy physical therapy is tailored to the unique needs of each individual child. A therapist will first conduct tests to assess the severity of the condition. A comprehensive treatment plan can then be devised to include various activities like stretching, positioning and strengthening exercises. Ultimately, your child will learn to walk independently without mobility aids and strengthen their muscles and joints, which in turn improves stability and positioning.
Consider play therapy
Play therapy can be an effective way for children with special needs, such as ADHD and autism, to develop skills like self control, language, body awareness, and social communication. A therapist monitors the play session, and may intervene when necessary to help your child resolve a problem or simply observe as your child works through their feelings. Moreover, providing your child the opportunity to socialize with other children outside the home can help them develop friendships and the skills needed to participate fully in school environments. It’s important your child feels confident working in a group, learns to compromise, and takes responsibility. In fact, developing confidence in social situations can foster personal independence in other areas of life.
Like all forms of parenting, raising a child with special needs doesn’t come with a rule book telling you what’s best for your child’s development. It’s important to look into areas of support to help your child grow, become independent, and thrive in all areas of life.