How to Cope With a Baby Being Diagnosed With Special Needs

A special needs diagnosis can be sudden and confusing. It gets easier. Take time to breathe, relax, and know that it will be okay.


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    Give yourself time to cope. A new diagnosis is not easy. It will change your vision of the life you will have. Remember not to blame yourself, your spouse, or your child. It's nobody's fault, and it will be okay. (Really!)
    • Take care of your own needs, not just the needs of your child. You need to be at your best!
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    Start reading. There are plenty of books about different disabilities, and the internet is full of disabled people who can describe their lives and talk about what helped them most. Ask a librarian to help you find a section of books about your child's disability.
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    • Remember to read resources not only by medical professionals, but by disabled people themselves. Sometimes medical professionals do not have the complete picture, and disabled people are the best experts on their own lives.
    • Read about the disability culture.
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    Find resources. A child with special needs will present you with unique challenges, and you don't need to face them alone.
    • Look for support groups in your area. Search on the internet, or ask your doctor.
    • See what disabled adults recommend. For some disabilities (e.g. autism), there are tons of disabled adults online. For others (e.g. Down Syndrome), communities mostly consist of family members.
    • Ask other parents and disabled adults for advice.
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    Build a team of trusted individuals to help your child. As your child enters school and undergoes various therapies, it is important that they feel supported and cared for. Members of the team can offer great insight and expertise to help the child be the best they can be.
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    Look into therapies for your child. Speech therapy, occupational therapy, and sensory integration therapy are all examples of resources that your child can have.
    • Always check with the disability community before starting a therapy. Some therapies, such as behavior therapies like ABA, carry a high risk of abuse and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The disability community can testify whether a therapy helps or hurts.
    • Ideally, therapy should be fun and playful, and the child should be able to ask for a break when needed.
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    Learn to advocate for your child. Sometimes, you will need to deal with bureaucracy, but politeness and stubbornness can be your allies.
    • As your child grows older, they will start being able to advocate for themselves.
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    Accept that your child will be different. They may not follow the regular developmental schedule, they may do things that don't seem "age-appropriate," and they may look different to others. All of this is okay. Your child is an individual, and your child doesn't need to blend in to be happy.
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    Teach self-efficacy and self-love. As your child grows up, they will become more and more capable. Encourage their capabilities, and help them learn to become self-reliant. Disability does not equate to powerlessness.
    • Love them for who they are.
    • Encourage them to make choices and ask for things. Do they want grape juice or apple juice? Do they want to put on their sweater, or not? This will help them gain confidence to make bigger choices and speak for themselves.
    • When they communicate a need or want, congratulate them for doing so. Then do what they want, or explain why you can't and offer an alternative.
    • Encourage them to begin ordering their own food, rather than having you tell the waiter/waitress.
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    Remember your child's strengths. In all the disability rhetoric, it can be difficult to remember that a disabled child is more than a list of deficits and delays. Focus on your child's individual strong points, and spend time together that builds on them.


  • Remember not to set too many goals at once! Your child needs downtime too.
  • Love your child!


  • You will encounter ignorance
  • Be strong and love your sweet pea
  • There are organizations out there to help and guide you
  • Don't limit your child just because they have special needs
  • You're not alone

Article Info

Categories: Baby Health | Raising Children with Special Needs