How Does Having a Special Needs Child Affect a Family?


When a child has special needs, it will affect nearly every aspect of your family’s life. If you have a baby or child with a condition like autism or cerebral palsy, you may have read frightening articles about the high rate of divorce among the parents of special needs children. The good news is, you don’t have to be a part of that statistic if your family works together to support each other.

When a baby is born with a birth defect or they are injured during the birth process, the first thing a couple may do is point the finger at each other. This happened in my own family, and it wasn’t helpful for anyone, especially not our baby. 

With the exception of birth injuries that are caused by a medical professional’s mistake, in the vast majority of cases,, no one was to blame for your child’s condition. If you believe a preventable medical error was the cause of your baby’s condition, read the caregiver’s guide to birth injuries to learn more.

The following tips will help your family work together as a team to cope with your child’s condition. I can tell you from firsthand experience that they helped my family of six.


Don’t Believe the Divorce Rate Statistics

It is widely claimed online that parents of special needs children are doomed to divorce. However, evidence from the National Institute of Health’s Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, large families actually fare better when they have a special needs child. 

The more children a family has, the more likely they are to divorce. This is not true for special needs parents. It’s been hypothesized that they stick together because a bigger family means more people to help with caretaking.


Don’t Forget Your Other Kids Still Need You

Depending on your child’s level of disability, caring for a special needs kid can result in exhausting, round-the-clock work. It can be easy to let your other kids fall by the wayside because unlike your disabled child, they will eventually learn how to take care of themselves. 

Take time out of your day to ask how your other children are doing and what their needs are. They may see how hard you are working and be keeping their needs to themselves so they won’t place any additional burden on you. 


Don’t Forget Your Other Kids May Be Worried, Too

You and your partner may not be the only members of your family who are worried about your special needs child’s future. Depending on their ages, your other kids may be worried about:

  • Whether or not you will be able to be there for them if they need it
  • Whether or not their special needs sibling might die
  • Whether or not there will be money to pay for their sports or hobbies
  • Whether or not there will be money to pay for their college
  • Whether or not they will have to take care of their sibling when you die

Your oldest children may be concerned that when you are elderly they may have to take on the responsibility of caring for you and their special needs sibling. You can ease your children’s fears by appointing a guardian or starting a savings account or investment portfolio to show them that there is a plan. 


Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Kids to Help

You may be tempted to hide the difficulties involved with caring for a special need child from your other kids so they won’t worry or be resentful. The truth is, asking your kids to lend a hand will help you from becoming overwhelmed. It’ll also teach them that being part of a family is about more than having your parents tend to your needs. 

You may want to create a schedule with age-appropriate tasks your other kids can do that will help their special needs sibling. It’ll help them form their own bond with their sibling by spending time with them. They may begin to take pride in their efforts because they understand how much their help is appreciated and is benefitting their whole family.







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