our everyday life

How to Treat Special Needs Children the Same as Other Kids

by Lucie Westminster

As the parent of a child with a disability, you don't want him to feel different than the other kids. Regardless if your child has a chronic medical condition, visual or hearing impairment or uses a wheelchair, it's your job to help him successfully negotiate the day's activities in the most typical way possible. With careful planning and adjusting of the day's events, treating your child with unique needs the same as your other children can prove easier than you might think. Doing so benefits all your children because the expectations for behavior and responsibilities throughout the day are the same for everyone.

Keep a daily schedule for all of your children. Establish routines such as specific bedtimes for each member of your family, and stick to them. Expect that each child, including yours with a disability, participate in these routines, as long as they are developmentally appropriate for him. For example, it's appropriate to expect each child to brush his teeth prior to going to bed -- and this should include your child with special needs. Offer assistance to your special needs child if he needs help holding the toothbrush or has difficulty with fine motor skills like grasping a small object.

Make special time for all your children. If you seem to spend extra time with your special needs child because you are taking him to the doctor or therapy, ensure that you also set aside special time for your other children. Try to spend some one-on-one time with each of your children -- including your special needs child -- doing something that is fun and entertaining.

Gather all caregivers and children for a family meeting and write a list of rules you want your entire family to follow, regardless of disability or age. According to the KidsHealth website, all children want to know what you expect of them, even if it might not always seem that way.

Use common disciplinary techniques and have consistent behavior expectations for all your children. Don't let your child with special needs get away with inappropriate behavior just because he has special needs.

Reward each of your children in the same manner. Use verbal praise and focus on positive behavior. If, for example, you reward your children who don't have special needs with extra time on the computer when they demonstrate good behavior, do the same for your child with special needs.

Select activities that all members of the family can do together. For example, if your family loves outdoor activities, select an accessible hiking trail that allows your child using a wheelchair to negotiate the terrain, rather than one that requires that child stay behind. Including all your kids in the same activity naturally ensures that you are treating them in a similar manner.

Items you will need
  • Daily schedule

Tip

  • Speak to your child's teacher, therapist or physician for activity modifications specifically related to your child's unique needs.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Lucie Westminster has been a writer and researcher since 1975. Her work has been published in journals such as "Psychological Reports" and "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior." Westminster's interests include developmental psychology, children, pets and crafting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Miami University.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images