Coping with the diagnosis of special needs

Just Found Out

  You have just learned that your child has some very special needs. Maybe you have been informed that your baby has Down Syndrome. Or that your preschooler is autistic, or has some other medical condition. You may be pregnant and suspect, based on test results, that your baby, still at the preborn developmental stage of his or her childhood, may have a disability.

BOOM - what a shock!

Know that at this stage it is completely normal to feel powerful emotions:


It can be incredibly disappointing to be hit with the devastating blow that your child isn't, or may not be, the perfect being you imagined - even if you sort of expected this. You may not be able to imagine ever being able to accept this. Intense crying can be an expression of your dashed expectations.


Part of you can be saying, "I don't believe it! It can't be! No way! There must be a mistake!" You may feel that if everyone just stops talking about this, you will wake up tomorrow and everything will be fine. At this stage you might feel numb, feeling distant and disassociated as if you are feeling nothing.


Time can seem to be passing by in a fog. Is it morning? Night? Mealtime? Your normal routine may seem impossible or meaningless at this point of crisis. And you may not even care.


Prospects for your child's future - any your own - may seem haunting and bleak. "How can this happen to me?" you may mourn. "How will I ever manage?" Raising your child, which you looked forward to, may seem like an impossible obstacle in light of his or her disabilities. And you wonder if your son or daughter will eventually become independent - or if you will be stuck in a caretaking role for the rest of your life.

"It's not fair!"

You may feel victimized at having your peace of mind rudely disrupted with the stark new reality of something being wrong with your child. Because you did not ask for this situation, it may feel as if life is victimizing you. With an absence of choice, you have been shouldered with tremendous responsibility and serious choices.


You may be unable to think of any other matters. The only thing that feels important to you now is this loaded piece of breaking news.

Any or all of these intense feelings are normal at the acute stage of discovering that your child has, or may have, a disability.


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