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When a child is diagnosed with a disability, life changes not just for that child but for the rest of the family as well. When a child receives a diagnosis such as autism, Down syndrome, or any severe developmental disorder, it’s normal to feel robbed. You may have expected your child to grow up, go to school, leave the house, and thrive like most other children. The realization that your child might not experience all of that can hurt. But that doesn’t mean the world has ended for your child. Although your child’s path may be different, you and your child still have lots of goals to achieve. Here are some tips to help you and your family thrive with special needs children.

1. Take Time to Grieve

This may not have been what you expected when you decided to raise a child. You have lost the future you had planned. It’s okay to grieve that loss. Take time to process your new future. Bottling up grief and frustration will just make things more challenging, as you deal with both your child and your own emotions. Giving yourself time to clear your mind will leave you better prepared to tackle your child’s future.

2. Educate Yourself

No two children with special needs are the same. What may be helpful to one family may be detrimental to another. Make sure you understand your child’s needs, and how to meet those needs. Read up on your child’s diagnosis. Talk to medically trained professionals and form a game plan. Knowing what your child’s needs are the first stepping to getting them what they need.

3. Build a Support Network

Not everyone in your life may be equipped to handle a child with special needs. Some people mean well but lack the understanding needed to help your family. That’s where forming a network comes in. Seek professionals who understand your child’s needs. Find other special needs families or support groups to vent or talk. Make sure your child has access to therapists or specialists. Your child will have both victories and setbacks. And knowing where to turn to cope with setbacks is essential. Don’t expect to take on all of your child’s issues alone. Get support for both your child and yourself.