Raising a Child with Special Needs

When parents learn that their child has a

disability or a chronic illness,

they begin a journey... 


"When parents learn that their child has a disability or a chronic illness they begin a journey that takes them in to a life that is often filled with strong emotion, difficult choices, interactions with many different professionals and specialists, and an ongoing need for information and services.  Learning that your child has a disability or illness is just the beginning of the journey. Initially, parents may feel isolated and alone, and not know where to begin their search for information, assistance, understanding, and support.

Two articles, written by parents for a publication of the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities, offer a starting point for families in their search for information and resources. We hope that it will also be useful to professionals who work with families who have a child with a disability, helping them to understand how having a child with a disability can affect the family and providing them with a ready resource to share with the parents with whom they work.

At times, you may feel overwhelmed by the by the  challenges associated with raising a child with special needs and by the strength of your own emotions. And while you may feel alone and isolated, there are many supports available. Other parents can be invaluable sources of help and information. Services are also available through public agencies that can assist your entire family—early intervention services for infants and toddlers and educational services for preschoolers and school-aged children. Having access to information and supports may be critical in maintaining a stable and healthy family life.  We urge you to read, to talk to other parents who have a child with a disability, to talk with each other and with other family members, and to reach out for assistance when you need it."

News Digest 20, 3rd Edition, 2003

A publication of the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities

In Support of Your Journey

as a Parent of a Child with Exceptional Needs

In this article, Patricia McGill Smith speaks to parents about the emotions that many parents of exceptional children experience and offers a perspective for living  with the impact of having a child with a disability.

In this article, Carole Brown, Samara Goodman and Lisa Kupper offer suggestions for adjusting to this new life of raising a child with special needs, accessing information and supporting the family.

Your Un-Imagined Life

We conclude with the words of Clare Claiborne Park, as she reflects upon the experience and emotions of being a parent of a child with disabilities.

"This experience we did not choose, which we would have given anything to avoid, has made us different, has made us better. Through it we have learned the lesson of Sophocles and Shakespeare—that one grows by suffering. And that too is my son's gift. I write now what fifteen years past I would still not have thought possible to write; that if today I was given the choice, to accept the experience, with everything that it entails, or to refuse the bitter largesse, I would have to stretch out my hands—because out of it has come, for all of us, an un-imagined life. And I will not change the last word of the story. It is still love."