EAP Monthly Health Focus
Contact your EAP: (800) 478-2812
July: Families with Special Needs
Don't Go it Alone
Special needs. What exactly does that mean? If you’ve heard of or are living with special needs issues, you may be well aware of the challenges involved. But what does “special needs” specifically refer to?
Special needs typically means the unique requirements of a person who has (or is at risk of having) learning difficulties or a mental, emotional or physical disability.
Typical special needs conditions include learning disabilities and developmental delays, autism, Asperger’s syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other emotional difficulties. Also included are physical handicaps such as cerebral palsy, and hearing, vision or speech problems.
Support is important! Building a support network and finding support groups can help you learn things from people that are facing a similar situation.
Regardless of the condition, it’s a daily challenge if there is someone with special needs in your family. But it’s important to remember that there are many tools and resources available to help you cope.
In this issue of Your Source, you’ll learn how to:
- Get an early start on diagnosis and planning to address a child’s specific needs.
- Understand how to make the best use of the educational system.
- Tap into resources—including other parents who are on a journey similar to yours—to help your child reach his or her potential.
Don’t try to go it alone in dealing with your family’s special needs. This issue of Your Source will help you take charge and get the help you need.
Log on to access Families with Special Needs and other helpful resources in the Spotlight section.
When Special Needs Change Your Life’s Path
If you have a family member with special needs, you may find yourself in territory where you never expected to go. At first your path may be uncertain, but there are steps others have taken that can provide guidance.
Focus on Diagnosis and Early Intervention
First, if you suspect that your child might have a disability, don’t wait. Take the child to your pediatrician and/or a clinical psychologist as soon as possible for testing. Early detection is important; getting help in the areas of special needs can lead to a child being included in, not excluded from, regular activities.
Learn About and Advocate for the Child’s Education
For every child eligible for special programs, each state guarantees special education and related services. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is a federally mandated program that assures a free, appropriate public education for special needs children. Usually children are placed in public schools and the school district pays for all necessary services. These can include, as needed, services from a speech therapist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, social worker, school nurse or aide.
Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and nonverbal learning disorder are all neurological conditions, meaning that there are problems with how the brain processes information. Studies continue to show the increasing number of serious neurological problems in children.
Initially an evaluation team works with you to create an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). It’s important to monitor your child’s progress and ask for frequent updates. If your child is not progressing, discuss this with the teacher and decide whether the program should be changed. Ask what you can do at home to support the IEP. And be sure to speak up when you have questions or concerns, particularly if your child has been teased or bullied by other children, or excluded in any way.
Stop and Enjoy Small Successes
Regardless of how things are going, spend time together doing things that the child enjoys. Build a feeling of success by praising good effort and providing special rewards when he or she succeeds at something. This can help offset the days when things don’t go so well.