What Is a Special Need?

Introduction

Does My Child Have Special Needs? is a question that many parents of young children ask. This is soon followed by another key question, What is a special need? A 14 month old child may not yet walk like many of the other children in the Mommy and Me class. Does that child have a special need? Another child repeats back everything she hears, including what is on television. Is that a special need? And if a child does have one or more special needs, where can the family go to get services and supports that can help?

How special needs are defined can determine whether or not children may be eligible for treatment and education services that can improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their family members.

Here you will learn the two ways that professionals who have the responsibility for helping children with special needs, like pediatricians, psychologists and educators, define special needs. They use the Functional Developmental and the Clinical Diagnostic approaches to help determine which children may most appropriately benefit from available treatment and services, and what particular help a child may need.

In the description that follows of the Functional Developmental Approach, you will learn a good deal about the various areas of child development that professionals study, such as body movement, or motor development, cognitive development, and social and emotional development. These are the same areas that are also explored in The CICC Discovery Tool™.

In the section on the Clinical Diagnostic Approach, you will learn about how and why professionals diagnose illnesses and special conditions that some children have and about the criteria they use for diagnosis. These criteria include those child behaviors that can potentially create problems for the children and for the people who love and care for the children. These potential problem behaviors are also explored in The CICC Discovery Tool™.

At the end of the sections where these approaches are described, you will be able to find real life stories of children who were helped by professionals who used these approaches to identify the special needs these children experienced.

You will also find on CICC's website a section about the major kinds of services for children with special needs and their families (Professionals, Agencies and Web Sites That Can Help).

Many of the agencies that are mentioned have service programs that are designed just for children with special needs. They each have their own criteria for accepting someone to receive their services, i.e., eligibility criteria. As you will see as you learn about these important community groups on the Professionals, Agencies and Websites That Can Help page, their eligibility criteria rely on both the Functional Developmental and Clinical Diagnostic Approaches.

Here you will also be able to obtain descriptions and research on various kinds of childhood disorders ( Types of Childhood Disabilities and Other Special Needs).

You will also find a Glossary of Terms that includes those terms that professionals use in their work with children with special needs. Knowing the meaning of these terms will help in communicating with professionals.

In addition, you can be connected to a great deal of practical information about managing the challenging behaviors of children with special needs (Coping with the Challenges of Having a Child with Special Needs).

Before you move on to any of these very informative sections, CICC would like to provide some additional perspective which recognizes that the matter of determining whether children have special needs can be a source of great concern to many parents.

As any parent knows, every child comes into a family with an abundance of needs: to be loved and cared for, nurtured, fed, clothed and educated, among other things. A child with special needs is basically a child who, because of his or her unique medical or developmental difficulties, has needs in addition to those of his or her peers. For example, a child born with a congenital heart murmur may have special medical care needs that children without this condition won't have. A child with learning difficulties will have unique educational needs that most same aged peers won't have. Special needs may range from mild to more severe. Most special needs respond well to treatment or special programs and services. The start of successful treatment begins with identifying any possible needs a child may have.

Many parents are worried that by labeling their child with a special need, their child will be stigmatized. They are concerned that identifying a special need may pose a risk to the child, such as excluding the child from normal programs and activities for children that age.

It is important to remember that all children develop in a unique fashion. A child who is otherwise developing as expected may have a delay or concern in one specific area. Getting assistance in the areas of special need can lead to a child being included with, not excluded from, regular activities.

So it is very important for practical purposes that children who have special needs be identified as early as possible and that they be defined as such, so that they can receive the special help they need in order to live the best lives possible.

With this in mind, CICC encourages you to read and learn from the following sections:

Functional Development Definition

Clinical Diagnostic Definition

Glossary of Terms

Types of Childhood Disabilities and Other Special Needs

Coping with the Challenges of Having a Child with Special Needs

Professionals, Agencies and Websites That Can Help

Take the CICC Discovery Tool™

 

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