Self-care tips for parents of mentally handicapped children

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Each stage of development (gross/fine motor, speech and language, cognitive, social and communication) has scope. Each child follows their own trajectory which may be different from the child of their age group. Some start walking at 10 months and others at 14 months. But still, both are normal as they are both within the normal range for this step. The problem starts when the milestone starts to wobble below the designated “normal for age”.

Parents should be aware of “normal for age”

Awareness of the stages of child development is necessary, until about the age of 5 years, when the maximum development takes place in the child. If the parents knew the normal, they would certainly be alerted to the deviation. Since timely corrective actions are more likely to achieve near-normal correction compared to late detection, awareness is the key to near-normality. There are many apps available (eg Continua Kids) that can give you red flags for deviations from normal.

Accept the diagnosis

In most studies, it is found that it takes 3 months to 2 years for parents to accept the diagnosis. They just can’t believe this could happen to their child. They would fight with the questions of Why my child? Whose fault is it? Why did all this happen? Sometimes there would be feelings of guilt, regret, fear, aggression that would eventually give way to acceptance. This period of human emotions fluctuates and varies from month to year. It is natural for parents to do so. This is how humans are. Emotions are what differentiate them from robots. But, yes, they need to be breathed out early for the sake of the child. The earlier the parent accepts the diagnosis, the better the outcome.

Be patient

Raising a child with an intellectual disability takes a lot of patience. Sometimes frustration sets in as to why I’m not getting good results when I’m doing my best? Why doesn’t my child choose like the other age group of peers? What should I do to get him out of this diagnosis faster? Try to compare your child with himself at his youngest age rather than comparing him with his age group. In comparison with himself you could see the progressive course of your child which would encourage you to make efforts. Whereas if you compare your child with his age group, the difference could lead to a lot of frustration and anxiety, which hinders the later progress of the child.

Form a support group

Parents need guidance and support in raising a child with special needs, as the trajectory and treatment plan is different for him. Forming a support group and sharing common concerns and solutions to a problem helps and supports the parent in raising the child.

Encourage your child’s independence

Most of the time, we take more care of the child once the diagnosis has been made. Obviously, additional support is needed in education, but this should not interfere with his independence. Teach the child to do the work in a way that is easier for him, rather than doing it entirely for him. You have to make him do his job by teaching him techniques that will make it easier and more understandable for him. This will help him become better in the future and no longer dependent on society.

No shortcuts

There are many promotional advertisements that claim to make the child “normal” within weeks or months. Examples like stem cell therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy are believed to cure children with special needs. They are still at the experimental stage and nothing concrete has been established as a treatment modality. Parents easily fall prey to these ads because they want their child to be “normal” as soon as possible and they would pay anything for it. Be sure to check the application before placing the child on such treatment.

(The author is Dr. Puja Grover Kapoor, pediatric neurologist and co-founder of Continua Kids)

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the views of India TV)

About Antoine L. Cassell

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