Children with special needs often move on their own unique developmental trajectory and as they do so, they may require a little more assistance to arrive at their milestones. While a therapist can provide a professional understanding of the child’s challenges and create personalised interventions for their needs, parents can amplify the effects of their child’s therapy by educating themselves on the unique perspective their child may hold, the common challenges their child may face and the strategies therapists frequently employ.
There are many core cognitive processes that are essential to the way of interpreting the world as we are used to, many of which may not come as easily to a special needs child. For example, the Theory of Mind, which refers to the awareness that other people have their own thoughts, feelings and desires, is a cognitive process that typically develops in young children between the ages of 4 to 5 without much external stimulation. However, this often does not come as easily to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). (Lauren L., 2016) This would also explain why our children with special needs may at times come off as inconsiderate or selfish when it is really a matter of the perspectives they have not yet taken.
Children with special needs also often face ‘invisible’ challenges that they cannot easily overcome or put into words. For example, sensory sensitivity is a common trait among individuals with ASD. A temper tantrum may be caused by an abrupt noise or a foreign scent that is not easily noticeable to you, but strikingly pronounced to them. (Autism Speaks, n.d.) Likewise a gentle tapping against the table or a rocking motion against the ground maybe incredibly soothing to them in ways we cannot fully comprehend. (Healthline, n.d.)
The unique challenges that children with special needs face naturally call for unique supporting strategies. These strategies are often fairly simple and easy to master with consistent practice. However, because they are unconventional for typical education, parents often perceive a significant barrier to exploring these strategies. While we may seek the support of therapists to introduce learning and new habits to our child, the learning cannot occur overnight and the complex engagement our child has with the world will not cease even after the therapist has gone home. Thus, it is endlessly beneficial to equip ourselves with some knowledge, so that we can step in confidently to support our child when they experience discomfort while learning to navigate the world. It is also advantageous to continue deconstructing the world for our child’s easy understanding after therapy hours, so that certain cognitions may come more naturally to them.
At Nurture Pods, our comprehensive online courses include content that goes into the detailed characteristics of a special needs child, the appropriate strategies to employ when interacting with them, the unique ABA approach our therapists employ and many more. Find out more about our courses at www.nurturepods.com.
Autism Speaks. (n.d.) Sensory Issues. Retrieved 28 March, 2019, from https://www.autismspeaks.org/sensory-issues
Healthline. (n.d.) Stimming: Causes and Management. Retrieved 29 March, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/health/autism/stimming
Lauren L. (2016) “Tuning in” to others: How Young Children Develop Theory of Mind. The Hanen Center. Retrieved from http://www.hanen.org/helpful-info/articles/tuning-in-to-others-how-young-children-develop.aspx