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How to raise a child with special needs

 Photo: Courtesy

The term 'special needs' is a very pregnant phrase used for children with developmental disabilities, medical or emotional problems that require professional help. The extra help needed for these children will vary based on the severity or mildness of the special need.

Parents with affected children go through hard times trying to understand exactly what the special need is, finding the right help, as well as adjusting their lives to care for the child and the rest of the family.

Some of the early signs of developmental disability are easy to miss and therefore almost impossible to treat right away. For example, a family with a dyslexic child might not know until the child goes to school, while a family with a child with Down syndrome can detect developmental delays as early as three months, although precise diagnosis can take time.

Because the different conditions are not easy to understand, let alone to come to terms with, many parents panic when their children are diagnosed with a special need.

Discovering available interventions and treatments, dealing with social misunderstandings, the uncertainty of the future, accommodating the changes in the family and numerous hospital visits can all be very challenging.

This week we focus on cerebral palsy, one of the many conditions that will place a child in the special needs category.

What is cerebral palsy (CP)?

It is a condition that affects the part of the brain that controls movement of the body. Hence depending on how much of the brain is affected, a child with CP might have problems moving around, sight, speech and hearing impairment, intellectual challenges and may sometimes even have epilepsy. Millions of children around the world are born with CP.

What are the symptoms of CP?

CP can be mild or severe affecting different parts of the brain. This gives wide room for different symptoms that may not easily be detected early. Common symptoms in babies will include:

? Stiffness or floppiness of muscles and joints, abnormal posture

? Uncontrolled or unpredictable movements

? Developmental delays in supporting their neck and sitting by 6 months

? Difficulty in swallowing

? Favoring one side of the body


CP does not tend to get worse as the child grows but the effects of CP on the body might cause some problems (such as dislocating joints) and make everyday life a little bit more difficult. As a result there are some treatments that are available depending on the type of CP.

? Physical and occupational therapy will help with muscle tone and flexibility issues

? Speech therapy will help with communication problems

? Medication will help for epilepsy, sleep-related problems and muscle spasms

? Surgery might be advised for severe cases to correct deformities

Raising a child with CP

It is not an easy task. But with preparation and adjustment you can help your child live life to the fullest.

? Research and learn about new findings on CP to provide better support for your child

? Create a support system of other parents and health professionals

? Give yourself some credit. There will be hard times and good times. Don't get burned out, instead ask for help and give yourself some rest.

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