Parents or guardians can become overwhelmed or disillusioned when faced with challenges in their child’s behavioural development. Here are a few care guidelines that can help benefit both parent and child.

Make time for family bonding

A busy lifestyle might determine the time spent together as a family, but it is essential for parents of children with special needs to find time to give them the attention they need. Spend time with them every day before school, or even better, select a day or night each week for a family activity – this will build excitement and give your child something to look forward to in their routine.

Encourage friendships

Opportunities for socialising and making friends with both children with disabilities and non-disabled kids, should be encouraged, as it averts loneliness. Children with disabilities can be particularly accepting, while interaction with non-disabled children can be beneficial for social behaviour.

Facilitate independence and decision-making

Giving children with special needs choices and the opportunity to do more for themselves, can improve their behaviour. Small choices – such as choosing what shoes to wear, or what snack to eat – and praising them for making their choice, can do wonders for building confidence and self-efficacy.

Be patient and understanding

Children with special needs can have difficulty following instructions, and many activities do not come naturally to them. Rather than getting frustrated when they are struggling with a particular task, ask if they need help or try different methods to communicate instructions.

Reach out to families

There are few stress-relievers as effective as hearing the stories of people who are raising children with special needs, or receiving support from someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. Use these opportunities to learn from more experienced parents or caregivers, and don’t hesitate to ask questions.

Embrace help from your peers

Many parents feel that they can cope and have the desire to do it all, but this could lead to stress, anxiety, and fatigue. If you receive offers from your friends, family, neighbours or other people in your social circle, then welcome their offers to help.

Help them to realise their dreams

Having some form of disability doesn’t mean a child doesn’t have any strengths. Children with special needs have many unique abilities – their disabilities are only one part of their lives and do not define everything about them. Discovering their unique abilities, talents and strengths – and nurturing them – are fundamental to their development.

Get involved with your child’s education

Being highly involved in your child’s education can help you assess what he or she is learning, and whether their school is suitable for them. Special needs schools and classrooms can make a huge difference to their ability to learn and develop with the appropriate assistance. The key is to choose a curriculum that will work for you and your child.

At Sunshine Centre Association, we support children with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities, their families and communities. We also offer a range of courses aimed at supporting professionals, caregivers, communities and families in their stimulation and development of children with disabilities. For more information about how you can enrol for a course, or about the Sunshine Centre Association in general, please contact 011 642 2005 or send an email to info@sunshine.org.za.