Girl holding toddler sister in living room

Raising a child with disabilities comes with its own challenges, and depending on the nature of the disability can become exhausting for a parent who have to care for others, and themselves at the same time. There are also financial considerations and of course the emotional effects of having a disabled child.

We understand what it takes to be a caregiver and are here to provide any help or support that you and your child may need to continue living healthy, happy lives in the face of disability.

More Information on Assistive Equipment

Raising Children with Special Needs

Parenting a child with a disability requires knowledge, patience and self-love

The birth of any child will have an impact on a family no matter how well you’ve prepared for the baby’s arrival. Having a son or daughter with a disability compounds the traditional challenges of parenthood and can put tremendous stress on your family. It’s important to find the resources and support that you need.

What should I do when my child is diagnosed with a disability?

It helps to understand that you’re not alone. Finding other parents who’ve been in a similar situation will help you locate the best resources. They’ve already been in your shoes, and they can discuss the services that they’ve found valuable, whether you’re looking for health care professionals, schools or specialty equipment.

You may meet these caregivers in-person at a support group sponsored by an association or health care system. Or you may talk to them online in a closed Facebook support group dedicated to a specific diagnosis. Online resources are particularly useful if you don’t have the time or the ability to travel to the meeting site.

Expect to go through a period of grief and fear until you adjust. Counseling can help you and other family members work through the process. If the child is older, you may need the counselor’s advice when it comes to talking about the disability or illness with him or her. You’ll want to use language that’s appropriate for the age.

Don’t be afraid to ask a professional or a health care provider for help.

How do I respond when friends talk about their “normal” kids?

There is no true “normal.” Every child is unique. Special needs children may not walk like their playmates, for instance, but their gait is right for them.

When it comes to activities and sports with others, let your child’s interest be your guide. Participation may require specialized or adaptive equipment, considerations or creativity, but it’s often possible in some way.

How can I reduce the stress?

Any new parent experiences stress when caring for an infant. For parents of children with special needs, the demands may continue long after infancy and into adulthood. It is a marathon and not a sprint. To be sure, caregivers spend from 20 to 40 hours a week caring for a loved one, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. As a result, one parent may need to stay home with the child, which can create financial stress as well as anxiety.

To combat the strain, make sure you have a supportive social network. Encourage friends and family to bring over a meal you can share over some light conversation. If someone else can care for the child, take the time to get out of the house and do something you enjoy. Get a massage or take a walk.

If you’re in a relationship, make sure you and your partner or spouse spend some quality time together. Taking care of yourself is essential so that you can take care of your family.

For more information about raising children with disabilities:

Children’s Community Alternative Disability Program

Delaware Office of Children with Special Health Care Needs

Delaware Family Voice

Medical Reviewer:
Michele A. Lobo, PT, Ph.D.
Co-Director, Move to Learn Innovation Lab
Founder and Director, Super Suits FUNctional Fashion & Wearable Technology Program
University of Delaware
Date Last Reviewed: August 13, 2018