The inherent difficulties that parents must face when dealing with children with disabilities are as varying and complex as the individual child at the heart of such issues. Disabilities are categorized under many different headings, depending upon the nature and type of deficit. Whether a child suffers from a physical, developmental, learning, or mental disability, there are available solutions for the abundance of issues that may present themselves as the child grows.
County, state, and federal funds are made available for children with disabilities from as early as infancy. Programs commonly known as early intervention programs are designed to acclimate infants to physical and cognitive skill therapies. Some of the activities available in early intervention programs are physical therapy, infant massage techniques, and other specific cognitive therapy that can give a baby with a disability an opportunity to develop as typically as possible. Parents are encouraged to participate directly in early intervention programs in order to facilitate and strengthen the bond between parent and child. Along with the program therapies that are offered, parents and program providers will assemble a service plan that will outline specific treatments and goals for the infant. These individual plans will most likely follow the infant throughout their childhood, being amended and added to as the child develops.
For young pre-school and school-aged children with disabilities, individual needs are more readily apparent to parents, teachers, and caregivers. This specific age group brings about changes in abilities along with a more pronounced understanding of the child's limitations.
Special education programs are provided through public school systems at no cost to the parent. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was established as an advocate for the rights of disabled children to an education. For a child to qualify for the special education programs, frequent assessments made by the child's pediatrician, as well as assessments and recommendations by early intervention providers is essential for the child to receive the proper services through the educational system.
One of the greatest challenges facing parents of children with disabilities is access to quality childcare. Most parents in today’s world cannot provide financially for their families without working outside of the home. There are state funded preschool programs that offer daycare services as well for children with special needs. This takes a heavy burden off of the parents who are already struggling to endure the hardships of caring for their child.
For disabled children within the elementary and secondary age range, special education programs and classes are also available throughout their remaining childhood years. One of the biggest and often the most stressful periods in a child with special needs' life is the transition from school to adulthood. There are many services and assistance that are available for parents to make this transition as smooth as possible for their child.
A variety of future options will most likely be addressed earlier on in the child’s life regarding independent living arrangements, vocational or work program possibilities, community access to activities, and social networking. While this transition can be quite stressful for those who do not plan ahead for this stage of the child’s life, there are many resources such as parent groups and advocate programs that can offer much needed help and encouragement for parents and child.
Caring for children with disabilities may be the most difficult and challenging of life’s tasks for parents and caregivers. However, it may also be one of the most rewarding personal experiences as well. The resources available to parents who are caring for children with disabilities can make all the difference.