Raising Kids with Special Needs

When a Friend Has a Child with Special Needs

Q. When friends want to help a special-needs parent, what do they need to know?
A. There is more you as an outsider can do for the adult than the child. We would have six people over for dinner, and Toby would be set off by all the chaos in our house, and our friends would just take over: "I'll stir the pasta, you pour Denise some wine; when the storm's over, we'll sit down." On the other hand, trying to help Toby ("Can I get you a banana?" "Here's the cup you dropped." "Can I tie your shoe?") made things worse.

Q. What do you tell parents who are worried about their child?
A. Trust your gut. People may reassure you that your child's behavior is normal when it's not. But also, give yourself a break. Just because your child doesn't turn his head when his name is called doesn't mean you have a problem. You have to see the pattern in a larger way, and that takes time. There's so much focus on early intervention, it can make you crazy. If you didn't catch the problem when your child was 2, it's not too late. It's never too late.

Q. That diagnosis was four years ago. How is Toby doing now?
A. He's a constantly morphing kid. I don't think it's over. But at 8, he's self-aware and able to strategize how to handle things that are difficult for him. We're in a really good place right now. He has worked hard -- it shows.

Q. What's the upside of raising a special-needs child?
A. Guiding Toby has given me the courage to revel in being un-average. And that's so freeing, to expand your concept of what's normal and just run with it. I have more fun now.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, May 2007.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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