Having a child with special needs is heart-wracking, particularly when it is a condition one is at odds with handling. Hence, information is crucial in managing the situation and giving your child the best life.
I have observed that most parents, even after spending huge amounts of money, still cannot define what condition their child has in simple terms. This shows a lack of understanding of the challenges the child faces in everyday life. What you do not know, how will you resolve? Such parents are usually at the mercy of everyone with half a pinch of (usually ill-placed) advice and we keep running from pillar to post with no solution.
The interesting thing about children with special needs is, a wrong diagnosis/treatment creates another special need in the child and aggravates the existing condition.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, shall we?
A child is said to have Special Educational Needs (henceforth referred to as SEN) if he has a learning difficulty which makes it more challenging for him to learn than other children of the same age group. Children with SEN often require special educational provision made for them.
A special needs child does not necessarily have learning impairment.
Even if a child has had a ‘label’ attached to his/her particular special need, this does not mean that his/her needs will be exactly the same as others with the same ‘condition.’ The difficulties a child experiences can range from mild to severe and a child may have problems in more than one area of learning.
For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on children whose special needs makes learning difficult for them.
Children have a learning difficulty if they:
- have a significantly greater difficulty in learning than the majority of children of the same age; or
- have a disability, which prevents or hinders them from making use of educational facilities of a kind generally provided for children of the same age in schools.
A learning difﬁculty could result from a physical or mental impairment, a medical condition, emotional and behavioral problems, communication difﬁculties, problems with concentrating or learning to read etc.
All children, including those with SEN, make progress at different rates and have different ways in which they learn best.
There are several types of SEN and to ease understanding, I will break them down into broad categories:
– Specific Learning Difficulties e.g. Dyslexia, Dyscalculia
– Behavioural, Emotional or Social Difficulties e.g. Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
– Sensory, Physical or Genetic Impairment e.g. Visual Impairment, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome
– Communication Needs
– Medical or Health Condition, e.g. Mental Retardation and so on
Let’s put the big sounding names aside for a bit.
Most of the names we call special children are demeaning and do not show the strengths such child has. Like I said above, we have been ill-informed about SEN for decades!
Some of these conditions are neurological while some come about as a result of environmental factors (ranging from home setting to exposure)
A parent knows his child better than anyone else. If your child already attends school, discuss with the teacher. Ask if he is progressing at same rate as other students, tell them why you think your child may have SEN, ask what the school (and more importantly YOU) can do to help.
Hold on with labeling a child until a proper assessment has been done by a licensed clinician and child psychologist. When a child exhibits 5 or more of the signs below, the parent should start thinking about getting extra help (do not panic, get solution calmly):
- A lack of pleasure in reading.
- Problems with writing, messy presentation, indecipherable paintings.
- Clumsiness; bumping into things, poor spatial awareness and perhaps an inability to hop/jump properly.
- Not getting on with other children or avoiding social contact altogether.
- Not enjoying school (in this instance, it is assumed the child goes to a fun, interactive school)
- Being easily distracted.
- Generating distraction.
- Reluctance to do homework.
- Not thriving at school.
- Disorganization: Late settling into class, last to pack up.