Your very special child

Having a child with a disability or chronic illness has a huge impact on you and your other children. Special-needs children can take up a lot of your time, meaning that any brothers and sisters can feel left out. It also places stress on your relationship – especially if you don’t work together to keep your family strong and united.

Extra special children and their families

Since men and women experience this challenge differently, it can be hard to work together – but teamwork is vital in order to keep your family strong and united.

How it can affect you

We all have hopes and dreams for our children and want them to be perfect. Having a child who has special needs can turn a family upside-down. Mum and Dad may find that all their time is taken up with caring for their special child, and brothers and sisters feel left out. Your patience will probably be stretched to the limit at times and if your special-needs child isn’t able to communicate easily, it may cause even more frustration.

Developmental stages may be long and slow – where your other children had passed through the tantrum stage by kindergarten, your special needs child may take years, or not outgrow them at all. “It may seem that every time your special needs child accomplishes something, a new challenge looms on the horizon,” says psychologist and Supernanny Expert Dr Robert Naseef, himself dad to a special-needs child. “That being said, the smallest achievements can be the source of great joy and pride – but you don’t have to lie to yourself about how hard this can be and the toll that it can take on your marriage.”

Working it out…

How it can affect your special-needs child

Your special-needs child isn’t immune from similar stresses. Poor social skills can make her feel left out and her frustration is likely to increase if she has difficulty communicating. If she’s fully aware that she can’t do the things her brothers and sisters can, she may suffer from low self-esteem.

Working it out…

How it can affect your other kids

Jealousy is common among brothers and sisters if they feel their special-needs sibling takes your attention away from them. Older children may feel embarrassed and ashamed as they become more aware of the differences between them and their sibling – particularly if their friends have brothers and sisters who aren’t handicapped. Kids can worry that they might ‘catch’ their sibling’s condition and also feel guilty that they’re unaffected by it. They can feel that they’re under pressure to make up for their sibling’s limitations by doing extra-well in their studies or at sports. And their protective feelings may cause arguments or fights with their friends if they hear them make comments about their sibling.

These problems can be made worse if they think you’re playing favourites with their sibling: letting them off doing chores and not keeping on top of their bad behaviour while fully expecting her brothers and sisters to help with chores and toe the line when it comes to the house rules.

Working it out…

Find out more

Caring for a disabled child - government advice and information

Cbeebies online: CBeebies online has a range of content for children with special educational needs. This is where you can find out about the content we've created and share in parents' and carers' experiences.