The Faces of Special Needs

Life With Down Syndrome
These eight children, photographed for Parents magazine's April 2014 issue, represent just some of the conditions that so many families live with.
Chris O'Shea
Chris O'Shea

Meet Angelina

Angelina McFarlane, 3, has cerebral palsy as well as vision and hearing impairments. She receives physical, occupational, and speech therapy. "She's always willing to learn," says her mom, Judith Maysonet.

A child with cerebral palsy may not be able to play like other children or may even be nonverbal, but that doesn’t affect her laughter or desire to explore. While life with the disorder may be different and at times hard, it is not stopping the members of one family from loving and supporting each other.

Chris O'Shea
Chris O'Shea

Meet Chloe and Daniel

Chloe and Daniel Molina, ages 3 and 5, have Autism and are nonverbal, but "we don't say 'I can't,'" says mother Lois. "We say 'doesn't yet.'"

Parents talk about the struggles and triumphs of raising children with Autism. Families work every day to overcome challenges such as communication problems, sensory issues, temper tantrums, and society’s pressure on Autism children. Video courtesy of interactingwithautism.com

Chris O'Shea
Chris O'Shea

Meet Maksim

Seven-year-old Maksim Brock has been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and ADHD. His best quality, says his mom, Jennifer, is "his love for everything around him." Though school has presented challenges for him in the past, this year he's in an inclusion class and doing very well.

Life with ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder can be overwhelming for a child. Overstimulation can cause breakdowns or affect verbal communication. One mom describes the challenges of facing society’s questions and future dreams of acceptance for her son with special needs

Chris O'Shea
Chris O'Shea

Meet Michael

Michael Rahner, 4, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 18 months and cannot walk. His best friend is his 5-year-old brother, Lucas: "Their relationship is one in a million," says their mom, Silvanna.

Cerebral palsy can cause many limitations in a child with the disorder, but one mom isn’t letting that stop her son from living a happy life. Communication and mobility problems cannot stop a child’s determination.

Chris O'Shea
Chris O'Shea

Meet Norma

Norma, nicknamed Xi'Xi, is 6. She was born in China with spina bifida and hydrocephalus, and at 18 months she was adopted by Cynthia and Patrick McLaughlin. After several surgeries and years of intensive therapy, she can walk on her own.

Adopting a special needs child can bring challenges to a family but also plenty of joy. One mother describes the emotional journey of adopting her daughter with Spina Bifida from China.

Chris O'Shea
Chris O'Shea

Meet Rose

Rose Carney, 4, was born deaf, and at 9 months she received cochlear implants. She's very good at explaining what they are, says her dad, John. "She'll say, 'Some people use glasses to be able to see, and I use these to be able to hear.' That makes a lot of sense to little kids."

One family talks about raising a deaf daughter and how she explains her hearing device to other children. "Some people need glasses to see while some people need cochlear implants to hear," she tells them.

Chris O'Shea
Chris O'Shea

Meet Siobhan

Siobhan O'Shea, 7, has Down syndrome. As a result of heart complications, she's had 17 cardiac procedures. But in many ways she's just like any other kid. "It is an amazing thing for her to be able to figure out what she wants and make it happen," says her dad, John.

Children with Down syndrome can bring a lot of happiness to a family. Living with the motto ‘She can do anything you can do,’ one dad of four describes how his youngest enriches their everyday life.

Copyright © 2014 Meredith Corporation.

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