There's been a massive sea change in how we view children who are not developing as expected, or, in other words, children who have special needs. From growing numbers of special-needs PTAs, playgrounds, camps, and toys to Pinterest's "Special Needs Blogs" board (3,500 pins and counting) to plotlines of the TV show Parenthood, physical, mental, and behavioral conditions that were once hidden away in specialized schools and doctors' offices are now woven into mainstream society in ways we haven't seen before. The prevalence of parent-reported childhood developmental disabilities jumped 17 percent between 1997 and 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This works out to nearly 10 million children. The most recent data show that one in 88 kids has a diagnosis of autism.
For the April 2014 issue ofParents, we created a 20-page section devoted to the special-needs world that we all inhabit, whether or not we have a diagnosis. Teaming up with Quester, a research company in Des Moines, we surveyed nearly 500 moms of children ages 3 to 12, roughly divided between those whose kids have special needs and those whose kids are typically developing. To define just which diagnoses fall into that first group, we looked to the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, the federal special education law that ensures public schools serve children with disabilities. We settled on conditions that require intervention and accommodations at school -- including ADHD; autism spectrum disorder; developmental delays and disabilities such as Down syndrome; epilepsy; hearing and vision impairment; behavioral/conduct disorders; arthritis and joint problems; and physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy.
Some of the survey's most enlightening findings:
Moms were very candid in their responses. This is what mothers of children who have special needs want other moms to know:
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