Helping Children Reach their Greatest Potential
Children develop at different rates and in different ways. Some walk early, some late. Some talk right away; for others, it takes more time. All of this is normal. But some children are born with disabilities and other special needs that are more serious and that will affect how they grow and develop. For parents and caregivers, this can be confusing and scary. At First 5 California, we want to make sure parents and caregivers know they are not alone in this process – and give them the information, resources and answers they need to make decisions and access services that will help their young children.
More than 10 percent of children ages 0 to 5 in California have a disability or special need that may impact their ability to play and learn. At First 5 California, we want to make sure that all kids, including those with disabilities and other special needs, get the best possible start in school and in life. To help make this happen, we’re working with parents, caregivers, teachers and many others to help identify children with special needs early, including children who don’t qualify for mandated services, and get them the resources, services and support they need.
Children with Special Needs – Tips for Parents and Caregivers
Some children have developmental delays or difficulties right after birth, while others might have delays a little later. You can help by learning the early signs. By knowing if your child might have delays or special needs, you can get him or her help when it is first needed. The best time to get a child help is from birth to age 3. If you think your child has special needs, ask for help right away. It’s important to get help as soon as you can, even if your child is still a baby or very young. It can make a big difference as a child grows and might prevent more serious problems later on.
Some things can put a child at higher risk for special needs. Here are some things to look for:
- The child was born too early.
- The child had a low birth weight.
- The mother took drugs, drank alcohol or smoked when pregnant.
- There is violence in the local area or home.
- The mother and child have poor eating habits.
- Family stress. This could be poor housing, homelessness or death in the family.
Children with special needs have differences in the way they develop or act. Some ways of acting might just be a child’s personality. Others can be cause for concern.
When Your Child Is Diagnosed with a Disability or Other Special Need
All parents want their children to grow up healthy and happy, and are proud of their accomplishments and delight in watching them grow. Parents of children with disabilities and special needs are no exception. If your child has been diagnosed with a disability or other special need, First 5 California has the following tips that will help encourage their healthy development:
- Look for support: As your child learns and grows, you may have to talk to many people to find the right information and services. Both you and your child might also need help dealing with your feelings and other people’s attitudes. The most helpful support may come from other parents who have children with disabilities or special needs. They can help you find resources and information, and provide emotional support. If you need a break or help with housework or child care, contact In Home Support Services through the County Social Services Department. Your family may qualify for help.
- Love, support and nurture your child: As children grow, they need opportunities to play and learn. Help your child find ways to do things independently or with the least assistance possible. Allow them to make mistakes and be creative. Involve them in making decisions, which will build self-esteem and confidence and help your child to become a self-assured and capable adult. Decision-making skills are especially important as your child gets older, so start early so your child can have a lot of practice.
- Learn more about your child’s disability: Go to the library and find out all you can or visit Web sites such as www.familyvillage.wisc.edu or www.healthfinder.gov .
If you think your child or a child in your care might have special needs, here are some ways you can learn more and get the support you need:Information retrieved from First5 of California http://www.first5california.com/