As we move briskly toward a more inclusive world, we are going to encounter more and more children with special needs who are mainstreamed into programs that were originally designed for typically-developing children. Inclusive schools and programs are good for everyone- not just for the children with special needs and their families.
The first thing to remember when serving a family that includes a child with special needs is that that family may need more emotional support and understanding than other families. Because we work with children who are still so young, it may be possible that the family is still coming to terms with their child’s diagnosis and learning how to cope with the long-term ramifications of their special need. They may still be looking for support networks and special services available to them. They may still be trying to understand the laws that will protect their child. They may need help navigating all of this.
It is also crucial not to judge parents who may still be “wishfully thinking” that this situation might go away. Rather than thinking that they are “in denial,” remind yourself that hope is a powerful emotion and parents are entitled to it. Allow them the time they need to let things unfold as they will. Nothing that you say, will change the course of events that are to come.
Child care providers should develop their own set of trusted resources that can be passed along to parents, as needed. Create a “Community Resource File” that includes local specialists (speech, OTs, PTs), Family Advocates, Pediatricians, Dentists, Tutors, Testing Centers, etc. , so that you have the information on hand, just in case you need it.
Remember, some parents may have already had a series of interactions with professionals before meeting you. They may already feel overwhelmed and under supported. You can change that by reaching out, without judgement, and offer a supportive hand as they negotiate this new terrain.