All children need loving, secure relationships. If your child has a special need, attachment may not occur in the same way, but it does occur. A child can feel the love and care you give him even if he is unable to verbally communicate. Children with special needs do form attachments. Children with special needs will also be assisted in their development by secure attachments.
Children attach in many ways. Children born with special needs may be unable to be held, may require alternative feeding methods, may be unresponsive or may be unable to see, speak, walk or do many of the things that help attachment relationships grow and develop. Despite this, parents and caregivers can find other avenues to closer relationships. Attachments are often developed through creativity and determination.
Developing a relationship with your child can be challenging. Parents may feel disappointment, guilt or sadness with their child. These feelings are common but can negatively impact your ability to develop an attachment with your child. Finding someone to talk with, such as a counselor or support group of parents of children with similar special needs, will help you understand your feelings and work through them and will help you know you are not alone.
Be realistic. While it is good to set goals and have expectations for your child, it is also important to be honest and truthful with yourself and with your child. By being realistic about who your child is, you can concentrate on helping your child achieve her best instead of worrying about what she can and cannot do.
Stick with it! Every interaction and each moment you spend with your child promotes attachment. Remember, attachment is a process over time. She needs to feel your touch, even if you cannot hold her. He needs to hear your voice, even if he cannot understand the words you say. If your child is in the hospital, be persistent about visits. Your persistence and reliability will promote attachment. All children need secure attachments to develop to their full potential.
Tips for Developing Attachment with Special-Needs Children
Friends, Family and Home
- Encourage all family members to visit her during hospitalizations.
- Encourage siblings to help with the child.
- Develop family time activities that can include all children.
- Be honest and open with family and friends about his abilities and needs.
Activities and Television
- Read, sing and talk to your child every day and often.
- Respond when she makes sounds or movements.
- Smile at him.
- Touch and massage him.
- Limit television.
Learning, Childcare and School
- Make sure caregivers are trained and experienced in disabilities.
- Ask teachers to help you identify the type of interactions to which she reacts best.
- Choose care with more teachers and fewer children.
- Be sure that he has a consistent caregiver that is usually there for him.
Guidance and Discipline
- Learn to recognize when your child’s behavior is his way of showing you his needs.
- Learn which cries mean hunger, anger or boredom.