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It’s no secret that disabled and special needs children require different methods of parenting, but how can you support your child in the best way possible? Find out more, here…
Looking after a child with a disability or special needs is not always the easiest job. You have all the usual difficulties parents go through and, on top of that, you have to find ways to do your best for your disabled child.
Disabled and special needs children require constant support and supervision from their parents in their early life. The child may also require additional support from compensation, if their disability was caused by some sort of medical negligence. Here, the help provided by lawyers, for example erb’s palsy and cerebral palsy solicitors, will really come into play.
In this post we are going to cover the definition of a special needs child under the law, so you know whether you child is covered. We’ll also be sharing our top tips on how you can care for your disabled or special needs children.
Is my Child Legally Considered Special Needs or Disabled?
Under the Equality Act 2010, a disabled person is described as someone who has an impairment, mental or physical, which has a long term (a year or more) effect on their ability to carry out day to day activities. This is a broad definition, which includes sensory impairments, and long-term conditions such as cancer, epilepsy and asthma.
The legal definition of a child with special educational needs is slightly different and is found in the Children and Families Act 2014. In this definition, a young person or child is defined as having a disability or learning difficulty if he or she:
- Struggles with learning new skills or ideas more so than the majority of people at the same age;
- Or has a disability which hinders them from using any facilities within mainstream schools that others can utilise easily.
This legal definition of special needs covers the educational needs of your child, and the disability definition covers everything. The likelihood is that if your child is disabled, or they have special education needs, they will be protected under both acts.
There is no exhaustive list of the conditions covered by these two acts. However, the Equality Act 2010 does have a short list of some disabilities that are covered by it, including:
- Visual impairments – blind, sight impaired, partially blind
- Multiple Sclerosis
- HIV infection
- Severe long-term disfigurements – such as facial scarring and skin disease
If your child suffers from any of these conditions, they are automatically covered by the act. This means that they’ll be entitled to any support from the government that comes along with the act.
How to Care for Disabled and Special Needs Children
That’s the legalities out of the way; hopefully you have a better idea of whether or not your child is disabled or requires special needs. Now it’s time to share our 10 top tips on how to care for your disabled or special needs children, in home and out and about:
1. Talk to Other Parents
Once your child has been diagnosed with a disability, usually by a GP, it’s a good idea to speak to other parents who have been through or are going through the same thing. They can provide anything from emotional support to advice on what they did right and wrong. This way, you can learn from their mistakes before making them yourself.
If you can’t get the support you need from fellow parents of disabled or special needs children, there are hundreds of charities out there, such as Carers Direct. You can also get information on parent carers in your area from your local council.
2. Sort out Your Child’s Medical Needs
Your child’s medical and healthcare needs are the responsibility of your local NHS health service. They will provide you with any medical equipment, special beds, mobility, hearing tech and any other disabled living equipment you need to help your child lead as normal a life as possible.
You might even be entitled to a personal health budget if your child has special care needs. This way, you and their carers can have more control over their care.
3. Respite Care
Looking after a disabled child can be an exhausting task, and you might want a little time away every now and then to recuperate. Luckily, you can claim for respite care from your GP or local council.
Respite care is exactly what it sounds; your child will be looked after by a carer whilst you take a breather. Whether it be in a care home or a day care centre, with dancing, singing and arts and crafts, they’ll be well looked after. There’s also the option to take a respite holiday with your child, through charities such as MindforYou and the Family Fund.
4. Have Some Fun
When you’re looking after your disabled child, the line between parent and carer can blur. So, it’s always good to remind yourself that, although you are looking after your child, you can still have a little fun with them.
There are a whole range of activities you can do, even with children who might have limited cognitive or physical abilities. You could create a texture book, have a dance competition, play skittles… the possibilities are endless.
5. Establish a Routine
Routine is incredibly important to all of us, and especially to children. Establishing a good routine when your child is young helps them maintain one as they grow older.
Seeing as though you and your disabled child will be spending a lot of time together, you should intertwine your routines. Make sure to include plenty of time for breaks and relaxation, and try to stick to the crucial tasks without fail, so neither you nor your child feel lost.
6. Exercise Often
You might find it difficult to get out of the house and go for a run, or a cycle, but all you need is an hour. Recruit the help of a friend or neighbour for an hour every other day, and get your blood pumping. It really is one of the best ways you can keep you and your child physically and mentally fit and healthy.
7. Help with Schoolwork
If your disabled child is able to attend school, you can seek help from the faculty. A school can usually provide help if your child has special education needs.
Depending on their condition, they may need extra help with reading, writing and numberwork. They could also need help with expressing themselves, understanding what others are saying, making friends, general behaviour and organising themselves.
Most of these needs should be met in a mainstream school, but if your child is unable to perform there, you should consider sending them to a school specifically designed for special needs children.
8. Apply for a Blue Badge
A blue badge, also known as a disabled badge, allows the parent of a child with a health condition that affects their mobility to park in designated disabled parking spots. This can be crucial if you have difficulty shopping due to looking after a child with a mobility disability.
Many blue badge holders are also eligible for exemption from road tax, which can make a difference. To apply for a blue badge you can go to the gov.uk website or speak to your local council. There is sometimes a fee to get a badge but it’s never more than £10.
9. Know the Condition
This one might sound like a given, but it’s an important issue to point out. If you plan on looking after your disabled child well, you need to know the ins and outs of their condition. The more you know, the more you’ll understand what they need, how they’re feeling and mitigate discomfort in the long run.
Spend a little time every week keeping yourself up to date on the latest research and technologies that could benefit your child in the future. Science is always advancing, and understanding of disabilities advances along with it.
10. Don’t Compare Yourself to Other Parents
Comparing yourself to other parents of disabled children is not a good idea. All children are different, all parents are different, and all disabilities manifest themselves differently. There’s nothing to be gained from comparing yourself to others.
All you can do is compare yourself to who you were yesterday, and keep trying to get a little better each day both for yourself and your child.
Now Go and Have Some Fun with Your Child!
That about rounds up our list of tips on caring for disabled and special needs children. We’ve discussed how you know your child is disabled or has special needs with regards to UK law. We also gave you a list of conditions that are automatically protected under those laws, and we shared our top tips on how to raise a disabled child.
Hopefully you’ve found everything you need from this article, but remember, there’s always more to learn. The more you know, the better chance you have of raising your disabled child in the best way possible.
Do you have any experience raising a disabled or special needs child? Perhaps you have some questions to ask, to put your mind at ease? Fire away, in the comments below, so we can educate each other along the way.
Thank you to Joanna Cunningham from Conscious Solutions Limited for this post.