How to Raise A Child with Special Needs to Live Their Fullest Potential
Parenting a child with special needs is a noble act of courage and strength. It takes incredible energy and time to care for them. Sometimes, this puts a burden on the parents physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially.
Getting the child to therapists on top of their work demands can be exhausting and expensive. Researching the right help and right answers to help the child can be time-consuming. And it is physically taxing for a new parent to be involved in the child’s therapies.
Often, parents find themselves at a loss and overwhelmed by despair for not knowing how to help their child. They don’t even know where to start and where to seek help. Yet, they have to physically, mentally, and emotionally be available for the child.
“Am I doing the right thing for my child?”
“Will this help my child?”
“Am I doing enough?”
“Why is my child not progressing?”
“Is it my fault?”
“There must be something I can do for my baby, right?”
Do you often ask yourself these questions? My guess is, probably quite a lot.
You’re definitely not alone in this.
Being a parent herself and as an educator, Vernessa Chuah, the founder of Mindful Space, realized that most of us feel overwhelmed and burned out because we were pouring out leftovers from a near-empty cup.
These small little moments can compound, slowly draining the water in your cup. To one point, you may break down and feel the world is collapsing, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
As a parent, it’s essential to fill your own cup first before filling your child’s. This is not a selfish act. It’s a basic form of self-respect — which we are role modeling to our child, and walking the talk.
So, use these tips here to fill your own cup and fill your child’s at the same time. Embark on a journey with your child, where you and your child learn and grow together.
What Children With Special Needs Actually Needs?
Do children with special needs actually have different needs than typical children?
In most cases, they need unique accommodation, transportation, or maybe a different treatment from others. This, however, doesn’t mean they are different from us.
They may look and behave differently and have different physical needs, but ultimately, all children yearn for the same emotional need: LOVE.
Sonia Sumar, the founder of Special Yoga and a mother of a Down Syndrome daughter, beautifully said, “Love is always the answer.”
No matter where they are from, all children need love from their parents. And love can come in the shape of connection, care, support, and even yoga.
How Yoga Helps Special Children To Live Their Best Life?
When you think of yoga, what pops up in your mind?
Exercise, mindful practice, breathing, Instagrammable poses, or someone sitting in a cross-legged position, like the image above.
But did you know that yoga can also provide space for children with special needs to thrive with their parents?
When taught right, yoga can help children overcome developmental disabilities unique to their conditions such as:
Quicker mastery of basic motor skills
Improved communication skills
Better cognitive skills
Enhanced balance and composure
Because of these benefits, yoga has great potential to be an effective therapy for chronic diseases and special conditions. Children with Down Syndrome and other developmental disabilities who practice Yoga usually surprise their parents and teachers with their quick mastery of basic motor, communicative, and cognitive skills.
Sonia discovered this potential during her journey seeking effective treatments for her down syndrome daughter. She journeyed the globe since 1980 and came across a type of yoga where she later further evolved into Yoga For The Special Child (YSC) designed to support special children and parents.
How Yoga For The Special Child (YSC) Helps?
Yoga for the Special Child (YSC) is a safe, respectful, and loving yoga space created for the children and parents to achieve balance and connection using the innate wisdom of our body.
As parents, we will learn how to use our body parts such as arms, feet, body to guide and support the children with limited mobility into basic yoga poses. Here, it’s not about achieving picture-worth poses. It is about using body postures to connect with the child’s nervous system, and the subconscious and conscious mind.
How does it help?
Using YSC techniques, a child with ADHD who feels calmer and more in touch with their bodies, can concentrate longer, better cope with difficult situations, and harness greater emotional control.
Parents with autistic children can leverage on YSC to establish a strong bond with the child. And certain yoga poses and breathing techniques can help bring the children out of their shells and into the world of social interaction.
The good news is, parents, therapists and educators can learn YSC methods to support their children from the comfort of their spaces. All you need is 30 minutes a day to reap the benefits.
3 Ways For Parents To Support Their Child With Special Needs
1. Connect With Yourself First, Then Your Child
When connected to your own soul, only then can you have a soul to soul connection with your child. And learn to embrace the beauty of your child.
This is an important milestone because as you’re connecting to yourself, you’ll be able to work with your child without labelling them — which is a critical factor in connecting with your children. In the YSC approach, we see beyond the child’s ability, there is no limitation when we connect soul-to-soul.
To connect deeply with your child, celebrate and embrace whatever comes without expectations. One great way is by chanting a mantra together with coordinated hand movements and rhythm.
When you chant the mantras, you are also shifting your mindset. This helps you and the child to be fully present for each other, while grounding the conscious and subconscious mind. Also, sneak in lots of smiles and laughs too. 😘
2. Practice Deep Breathing
Do you notice when you take a deep breath, you feel calmer? Because our bodies associate deep breathing with peace and safety
Same goes for the opposite. Our breathing rate speeds up when we’re nervous or scared as part of the fight or flight response — the way our body responds to threats by quickly deciding either we fight, freeze, or run away.
A high breathing rate actually lowers the amount of oxygen transferred to the brain. Then, the child may experience low concentration, unable to focus, get easily frustrated, or tired easily
What you can do for your child is to breathe with them together. Simple right? Use these child-friendly breathing techniques like balloon breathing, humming like a bee, or blowing a candle on a cake.
3. Engage Body Movements
A child with special needs may face physical difficulties in balancing, getting ready by themselves, or having underdeveloped motor skills because their bodies may not have gained control of their muscles and alignment yet.
One effective way parents can do at home is to provide different sets of exercises and massages. Simple exercises like the eye movement exercise and a gentle feet massage help the child a lot to experience various body positions and movements in a relaxing way.
Each child with special needs has different mobility, flexibility and strength. YSC helps you learn how to assess the child’s ability and readiness, the exercise shifts to be a learner-centric focus. Remember that there are different stages, noticing those physical cues and adapting to their needs can further help you connect with your child.
During this process, you will experience a true soul to soul connection with your children as your focus is on your child and your child’s focus is on you and your touch.
Tip: Try to remove toys and props out of the child’s sight so both of you can be fully present, and you can use your voice and body to stimulate deeper connection with the child.
Yoga For The Special Child
Caring for your child with special needs is the most beautiful act on Earth. You are the most courageous hero in their world. At the same time, you’re also a human. Sometimes, you’ll feel overwhelmed to tend to their needs while your cups are empty.
It’s okay, you don’t have to shoulder everything alone. Just like every hero has support, we’re here to help.
Vernessa came about Yoga for the Special Child (YSC) when she was searching for ways to help parents and educators to support children with special needs in a more holistic way.
In 2018, Vernessa finally had the opportunity to register for the YSC course, only to find out 2 weeks before the course that she was 1 month pregnant. She knew this course would be very meaningful in her journey and true enough, she was surprised by how gentle, loving, safe, and respectful she felt in that space — including a real soul to soul connection with her unborn baby. It is hard to describe the feeling with words alone.
The highlight for her during the programme was witnessing on-the-spot how Sonia Sumar connects with children she meets for the first time. The three different children that participated have down syndrome, autistic and cerebral palsy respectively. The connection was so authentic and beautiful, Sonia is a whisperer for children with special needs.
Does YSC Complement With Other Therapy Work?
What’s really special about the YSC approach is its ability to integrate with other therapy work such as occupational and speech therapy. It is safe and gentle that YSC can be practised on infants as young as one month old.
Most importantly, you’ll experience a lot of inner work and self-reflection to help you become a better parent mentally and emotionally using the wisdom of your body. It’s all about connection with self and the child.
Because of these unique traits, more and more therapists and educators are embracing YSC and incorporating it into their practices. You too can do the same at home.
Become A Better Parent, Educator and Therapist For Children With Special Needs
This September is your opportunity to embark on a new parenting journey and experience the next-level connection with your child. We have on-going workshops throughout the year, email us at [email protected] for the latest schedule.
Find out more Yoga for the Special Child (YSC) online course
This program is suitable for parents and educators working with children with ADD, ADHD, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and Learning and Developmental Challenges.
You might say, “I like this idea! Can I join if my child doesn’t have special needs?”
Yes, of course you can. YSC can help you become a better parent or educator physically, mentally, and emotionally.
In the end, parenting more than just taking care of a child. It is a healing and holistic journey together with your children so you can connect with them on a much deeper level. Throughout the journey, you learn and grow together with them, bringing more meaning and purpose into your life.
The question is, what kind of journey do you want to experience with your child?