A total of 9.4 million children are estimated to have special health care needs in the U.S., as found in The National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Some of the most common special needs diagnosed in young children are speech and language delays, ADD, cognitive delays, social and emotional disorders, and learning disabilities. Less common, but still present at significant rates, are disabilities involving complex needs – i.e. conditions causing two or more needs that affect one’s physical, mental, social or financial wellbeing. Complex needs may include sight and hearing impairments, single sensory impairments combined with additional needs, or a combination of needs (such as can occur in children with cerebral palsy or ‘CP’). With CP, for instance, a child may have visual impairments in addition to hearing impairments, speech problems, or mobility issues.
Finding Out Your Legal Rights
Coming to terms with a new diagnosis may take time, but once you feel ready to do so, researching your full legal and financial rights is key so as to ensure your child receives the best treatment and the best chance of an independent future. If your child’s CP, for instance, was caused by negligent medical care, then filing a claim will help to ensure that your child is compensated for issues such as past and future financial financial losses. You should also find out if you are entitled to Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – a program for children with special needs whose families are considered low income. Ensuring your financial situation is as strong as possible will help you consider treatment and surgery options if appropriate. Children with CP, for instance, sometimes opt for muscle lengthening surgery to improve mobility and reduce pain. Even if you have medical insurance, this may only cover a portion of the cost, so it is important to build a ‘nest’ for your child’s current and future needs.
Joining A Support Group
As soon as you can, it is important to join a support group so you can make new friends, find a key source of support, and discover vital information that other parents can share. Usually, parents will be very clued up on the best doctors, therapists and treatments nearby, so you can save yourself plenty of time by relying on their knowledge. Support groups will also be a great place to find other parents and children with whom you can organize play dates and other activities.
Parents of children with special needs may worry about how their children will get from Point A to Point B in the future, or how they will be able to meet up and socialize with others or find a job. From the outset, therefore, it is important to invest time and effort into enabling children to obtain as many skills as possible – from cooking right through to doing the laundry, making decisions as to where they’d like to go, and (as they grow older) taking public transport. Encouraging independence should also be a priority when it comes to choosing the right school for your child. You will need time to decide whether to opt for a mainstream or special education school, since each has its pluses and minuses. Visit several schools, and if your child has emotional needs (for instance, if they have ADHD or mood disorders), know that there are dedicated schools that cater to these needs.
Millions of children are living with one or more special needs in the U.S. If your child has just been diagnosed with a special need, start off by discovering any financial or legal aid they may be entitled to. Join support groups to expand your knowledge and prioritize independence so your child can have as full a life as possible when they transition into adulthood.