Learn to empower others

A diagnosis of a disability or chronic condition in a child is often met with fear and uncertainty from the parents.

But no person who takes on the role of caring for a special needs child must go through it alone. Dozens of resources exist to connect caregivers with organizations that can provide support, from emotional to financial.

Here are some steps you can take to help your special needs child — and yourself — after you learn about their diagnosis:


Whether you find someone locally or seek assistance through a national center, find someone who has been through a similar situation. With an estimated 14 million people providing care to a special needs child in the United States, know that you are not alone. If possible, find a resource directly related to the needs of your child. Autism resource www.autismspeaks.org lists dozens of local organizations that provide assistance to those with autism spectrum disorders, for instance. Whatever the condition, you can find someone who has been there before.


Ask questions of everyone — from your doctor to those in your support group to those who temporarily care for your child while you are away. Save the paperwork you receive, and make sure you spend time learning the latest research about the condition. Use resources available through national care groups or even your local library. Materials written by other parents may prove particularly helpful when dealing with the emotional aspects of caregiving.


The financial requirements of caring for a special needs child factor into many of the decisions the family makes. Local care organizations can help connect you to assistance programs, grants or information about health care options that can work for your family. If you need help finding a local care organization, you can visit websites like thearc.org.


When you become an advocate for your child, you give your entire family strength. Seek the best at all turns, and empower your special needs child, too. Encourage developmental victories, and let them play a role in discussing their health with friends and family if they are able.


The stresses of caring for someone nonstop can accumulate and become overwhelming at times. Know that it’s okay to take a break. Take a night off with the help of a trusted family member or a special needs babysitter and you’ll come back fresher and more focused on your caregiving tasks. Use this time to reconnect with friends, family, your children, your spouse or simply use the break to care for yourself. A local care agency can connect you with someone who can provide specialized respite care.