The Effects of a Special Needs Child on the Family

To the writer,
Here is what information we believe would benefit your upcoming research paper. In the following wiki we include topics to explain the effects of a special needs child on a family. To be specific we believe you should focus only on two main disabilities found in children today, being autism and down syndrome. Before becoming specific with the subject, we think you should include a list of key words to educate readers, statistics, and a basic overview of down syndrome, autism and the history of special needs. We took an atomistic approach by separating the topic into 3 main parts. These parts include; effects on the sibling, effects on the parents and tips for the family. We think by giving a solution to the issue, your research paper will be more beneficial to society as they can use your paper accordingly to their lives. We used the two psychological phenomenas of behaviourism and introspection to bring together your topic in a psychological perspective. We used two opposite psychological phenomenas to show you that this topic can be viewed several different ways. We appreciate you taking the time to use our research and we wish you the best of luck on creating your paper.
Best of luck,
L., S., M., M.


There are many psychological components to how a family copes with having a child with special needs. Down syndrome and autism are the most popular and well known special needs in todays society. Down syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality causing individuals with the syndrome to have a different appearance and lack of cognitive development. Autism includes a psychological disorder that affects individuals with the disorder mentally and physically. Both of these disabilities are studied in science and psychology to understand specifically what is happening biologically in these individuals. Although, these individuals with special needs affect their families greatly. This includes how their siblings will develop and socialize. Also, their parents will be greatly affected because they must learn how to balance having children with and without disabilities, while maintaing a healthy marriage. Through all the knowledge science has today on these two topics, psychologists and scientists are able to form groups that will help these families undergo these crisis' in their everyday lives. Two psychological phenomena's are greatly significant in understanding the roles and actions in these families. These include; behaviourism and introspection. Behaviourism views the actions of the specific family members as a response to the stimulus. Behaviourism will attempt to fix these crisis' through conditioning the individuals to have a certain response when the stimulus acts out. Introspection will view the actions of the family members due to their feelings towards the stimulus. These psychologists will undergo mental experiments to see why they feel a certain way when the child with special needs acts out.


  • Prevalence of diabsility among children in Canada (1)
    • 3.7% of Canadian children under the age of 15 were reported to have 1 or more disabilities.
    • Agility, chronic condition, communication, developmental delay, learning, hearing, mobility, vision.
  • It is the most prevalent of the PDDs, with the prevalence rates ranging from 2 to 20 cases per 10,0000. (2)
  • Rates are 4-5 times higher in males than females. (2)

(1) "Participation and Activity Limitation Survey 2006: Families of Children with Disabilities in Canada." isability rates for children under the age of 15, by sex and age groups, Canada, 2006 (2006): n.pag. Statistics Canada. Web. 7 Apr 2014. <

(2) "Childhood conditions." Autistic disorder (2013): n.pag. Statistics Canada. Web. 7 Apr 2014. <>.

Key Words

  • Special needs: The attention an individual requires with a disadvantaged background or mental, emotional or physical disability. (1)
  • Retardation: Intellectual disability diagnosed before 18 that includes below average intellectual function and lack of skills for daily living. This term was used to describe the condition, now it is no longer used. (2)
  • Chromosome: Chromatin with strands of DNA and proteins condensed into a compact structure.
  • Behaviourism: a psychological phenomena that analyzed the actions of individuals in the world through the concepts of a stimulus, response, conditioning, and drives. (3) Major behaviourist's include Ivan Pavlov and B.F. Skinner.
  • Introspection: The behaviour an individual does is considered an experience in the mental realm in connection to sensation, thoughts, and feelings. Also, analyzing within the individual. (4) A well known psychologist in this field is Wilhelm Wundt.

(1) Special needs. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2014, from needs
(2) Dyer, Ruthanne, Sylvia Mader, Susannah Longenbaker, and Michael Windelspecht. Human Development. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2013. Print.
(3) Sheese, R. (2013). Introduction to psychology: Preliminary edition. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.
(4) Kukla, A., & Walmsley, J. (2006). Mind. (pp. 21-22). Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.

Down Syndrome

Down syndrome is a disorder that is caused by a chromosomal abnormality. John Langdon Haydon Down introduced that 85% of individuals with Down syndrome have trisomy 21, 4% have translocation and the other 1% have mocaicism. Most down syndrome children have trisomy 21, this includes their genetic makeup having an extra chromosome in the 21st pair. With the extra chromosome they will have 47 chromosomes instead of the regular 46 chromosomes. Their cognitive learning is affected greatly. Their I.Q.s range from 20 to more than 90. Children with this disorder, are prone to heart defects, poor vision and hearing, respiratory infections, leukaemia and a neurological condition very similar to alzheimer’s disease. (1) Individuals with down syndrome have distinctive phenotypes. These phenotypes include; almond shaped eyes, short height, stocky build, large protruding tongue, flat nose and short fingers. Their motor skills and speech are delayed along with their cognitive development that may not peak until they are the age of 30 or 40. (2)


Here you can see the mutation on the 21st chromosome with an extra chromosome. (2)

(1) Down Syndrome. (2001). In B. Strickland (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology (2nd ed., pp. 193-194). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from

(2) Carson-DeWitt, R. S., & Cobb, B. R. (2004). Down Syndrome. In K. L. Lerner & B. W. Lerner (Eds.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Science (3rd ed., Vol. 2, pp. 1278-1281). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from


Autism is a psychological disorder that first appears in early childhood and is distinguished by the impaired social interaction, language and behaviour development. Autism is noticed by abnormal behaviour and development of a child normally at ages 3-5. Autism approximately affects 4 children in 10,000. Standard nonverbal behaviours that will support social interactions in normal children are eye contact, facial expression and body language. Many children with autism are able to speak while some will never be able to speak even with the help of speech therapy. These children lack some emotional attachments, for example, grief, guilt, shame, and sadness. (1) Autistic children will have a fixation on an interest. For example, children can have a fixation on Pokemon. They will also have repeated physical movements, such as flapping one’s arms or clapping. There is no exact test that is accurate for autism, although professionals use CT scans of autistic children to reveal abnormalities in the ventricles of the child’s brain. (3) Studies show that the structure of the brains of autistic individuals work in ways that are different to those without autism. Their brain size is larger than non autistic individuals because their brains grow more rapidly and they also have an increase in the connections between brain neurons/dendrites. Although, their is no exact reason as to why individuals have autism, it is biological in its origin. In the past, it was believed to be because of the parent’s life style although today scientists have looked passed this. (2) Autism is branched into different forms of severity of social and language development and behaviour. (3)


For example, many individual’s living with Aspergers’s Disorder are able to live a normal life but will be very socially awkward. However, individuals who have the autistic disorder and cannot speak and will need care for the rest of their lives.

(1) Autism. (2001). In B. Strickland (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology (2nd ed., pp. 60-61). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from

(2) Braus, P. (2004). Autism. In K. L. Lerner & B. W. Lerner (Eds.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Science (3rd ed., Vol. 1, pp. 386-388). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from

(3) Murray, Stuart. Autism: Me. New York: 2012. eBook. <>.

History of Special Needs

Professionals have believed that the feral or wild children found living outdoors in the 1700s could have possibly been autistic. For example, Victor, the “wild boy of Aveyron” could have very well been autistic because of his improvements in socialization and cognitive ability but permanently unable to speak. Victor was impaired of social skills, cognitive (intelligence) skills, physical skills and speaking skills. (1)

In ancient years, individual’s had referenced and wrote about people who had disabilities. In 1552 B.C. the ancient Greeks and Romans felt that intellectual disabled children were born because the gods were angry. Society looked down upon these children by leaving the children to die from exposure instead of developing. However, if a child with an intellectual disability was born into a wealthy family they allowed the child to have guardians. Eugenics and sterilization was heavily weighed upon in how society viewed special needed children in the 1800s. Many psychologists including Sir Francis Galton and Henry Goddard studied how eugenics could make the human race better to benefit society. Galton began the eugenics movement with the factors of why intellectual disabled people should not belong in society. Goddard studied how feebleminded people in the Kallikak family were segregated and put to their death because of their intelligence. Society saw the feebleminded as the mentally retarded and the physically disabled. (2) A group member’s personal story includes how in the 1960’s individuals with special needs or a disability were categorized as retards. Society has changed in the past 15 years to use the term special needs instead of retard because it is more socially accepted. The term retard is harsh and offensive to the intellectually disabled individuals. In reality, many individual's with special needs, like autistic children, are extremely intelligent. Therefore, the term retard was not a proper fit to their disability.

(1) Autism. (2001). In B. Strickland (Ed.), The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology (2nd ed., pp. 60-61). Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from

(2) Harbour, C.K.,& Maulik P.K. (international encyclopedia of rehabilitation). (2010). History of Intellectual Disability. Retrived from:

The Sibling of a Child with Special Needs


Every family is unique and so the way they handle difficulties will also vary. This is also the case with families that have autistic children (2). Although autism is a disorder that affects 1 in 68 children (3), there is only partial research conducted on how autism impacts families, and little to no aid given to them (2). In doing this, a large group affected by autism is disregarded; the siblings (3). While the parents of autistic children are affected, the main struggles and problems faced by siblings of autistic children are far greater (1). From the studies conducted on siblings of children with autism (1), a few similarities were found and it became apparent that the siblings endured a lot of mental and physical stress.(1)

(1) Autism speaks inc. (2014). What is Autism? What is Autism Spectrum Disorder?. Retrieved from:
(2) Orfus, M., & Howe, N. (2008). Stress appraisal and coping in siblings of children with special needs. Exceptionality Education Canada, 18(3), 166-181.
(3) Woolfolk, A., Winne, P. H., & Perry, N. E. (. E. (2012). Educational psychology (5th Canadian ed.). Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall.

What’s happening? Why is it happening?

The siblings of the children with autism love their brother/sister yet in most cases they resented them at times(2). Most of the siblings admitted that having an autistic brother/sister meant that they weren’t able to do all the normal things most people take for granted. They were not able to go watch movies in a theatre, vacations, picnics, or carnivals as a family (2). There always had to be someone taking care of their brother/sister with autism. At school events and ceremonies, the siblings would sometimes only have one or no parents there to support because they are at home taking care of the other child (1). All these difficulties are hard to overcome at a very young age, yet most siblings of children with autism understand the struggles of the parents and learn to take care of themselves (1).


(1) Orfus, M., & Howe, N. (2008). Stress appraisal and coping in siblings of children with special needs. Exceptionality Education Canada, 18(3), 166-181.
(2) Strohm, K. (2008). Guest editorial: Too important to ignore: Siblings of children with special needs. AeJAMH (Australian e-Journal for the Advancement of Mental Health), 7(2), 1-6.

The Victim

A major area that siblings of children with autism have trouble with is their school and social life(1). The siblings often struggle with fitting into social circle and trusting people. Through taking care of and understanding their brother or sister, the maturity level of children with an autistic sibling is far greater than children who do not have a special needs sibling (1). They often seclude themselves from large groups and become very selective with their friends(2). A lot of siblings stated that making friends and trusting them was always difficult. This is because, they always worried about the affect it would have on their brother/sister(1). They didn’t want to bring someone into their life that seemed nice at first but ends up hurting or being rude to their brother/sister. This single thought causes a lot of anxiety and fear in these individuals and leads them to isolate themselves from society(1).


(1) UNRUH, A. M. (1999). Siblings of children with special needs. 59(3), Retrieved from
(2) National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (n.d.). Sibling Issues. Retrieved from:

Parents Struggle

Even though the parents of most children with autism do their best to take care of them, sometimes the sibling is forced to be the third parent(1). The sibling often become responsible for their brother/sister when the parents are at work. (2) At a young age this can have a very negative impact on the sibling’s mental state(1). A study conducted showed that siblings (of a young age) of children with autism have nightmares about losing and taking care of their brother/sister(1). They dream about situations in which their brother/sister is lost and hurt and it’s their fault. These images and dreams can cause a lot of mental stress and sleep deprivation which is unhealthy for any child(1).


(1) Belchic JK. (1996). Stress, social support, and sense of parenting competence: A comparison of mothers and fathers of children with autism, Down syndrome, and normal development across the family life cycle. ProQuest Information and Learning, 8(13), 452-489.
(2) Woolfolk, A., Winne, P. H., & Perry, N. E. (. E. (2012). Educational psychology (5th Canadian ed.). Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall.


There has only been a few studies conducted on the siblings of children with autism, and there is still so much to learn and understand. When someone is diagnosed with autism, everyone focus on them and their parents, the siblings are easily overlooked and disregarded. Many people say that autism is not a disorder that just impacts the child with autism; it impacts everyone around him/her. This is a very true statement and the siblings of these children offer a very crucial perceptive into understanding the full extent of autism. No matter what the situation is in each family, the sibling always loves their brother/sister and continue making sacrifices for them as long as possible. Most of the siblings grow up to be strong adults and pursue careers in fields where they can help people.



Understanding a person and the reasons behind their actions is said to be dependent on how the individual developed as a child(3). There are many different ways of observing and measuring child development. An effective method of analysis is through behaviourism. Behaviourism uses operant conditioning and verbal behaviour to shape a child’s perspective and emotions(1). In the case of families with children that have special needs, various researches have been conducted showing how certain behaviours and actions lead to positive and negative reactions(2). Focusing on the siblings of the children that have special needs, it was found through behaviourism that most families tend to give inadequate attention to the sibling(2), resulting in anger, resentment and hatred(1). Most families with a child that has special needs tend to put all their time and energy into taking care of that one child, leaving the other child alone and left to fend for themselves. This kind of behaviour from the parents causes the sibling(1) to react in a negative way(3). The sibling will act out, cause trouble and conduct opposite behaviour from the expected manner in which the family hopes he/she acts(1). The sibling will continue to seek attention and validity from his/her parents and peers until the individual feels that they have more power and control than the child with the special needs. If the sibling never gets the proper attention they require from the parents, it can have dire effects on their future.


A different point of view that is often considered while learning child psychology is through introspection. Introspection analyzes an individual’s feelings and thought process(3). It explains how and why a person feels in certain situation and their mental state(2). Focusing again on the sibling of the child with special needs, an examination through introspection can help understand how they feel(1). With introspection, in a situation where the parents are giving all their attention to the child with special needs(3), the thought process of the sibling can be broken down and understood. Before the sibling gets mad and angry, there is a thought process(2). The sibling at first is understanding of the situation, and then starts to feel alone which finally results in anger and frustration with his/her parents (1). This may be a very simple way to analyze a child’s mind but it is very effective(1). It helps comprehend the child’s mental state and provide a way to resolve the negative feelings and thoughts that occur in the child’s mind(1).

(1) Giallo, R., Roberts, R., Emerson, E., Wood, C., & Gavidia-Payne, S. (2014). The emotional and behavioural functioning of siblings of children with special health care needs across childhood. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 35(4), 814-825.
(2) UNRUH, A. M. (1999). Siblings of children with special needs. 59(3), Retrieved from
(3) National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities (n.d.). Sibling Issues. Retrieved from:

Down Syndrome

A very interesting study was done on how children with Down Syndrome, impacted their parents and siblings. The research goes over the positives and negatives, explaining in detail about how the child with Down Syndrome is developing, interacting and understating his/her environment. The research is continued by C.C Cunningham where he follows 100 families from kids to teenagers and then to adulthood. Over the earlier years certain things stay the same, such as, the constant work load and pressure on parents and later on it could affect the siblings. A lot of the families went through struggles and in the process not only lose relationship between parents but also the “normal” child. Overall, very productive research work was done to deeper understand relationships between parents and their kids; with a child who has Down Syndrome.

Cunningham.C.C. (1996). Families with children of Down Syndrome. Down syndrome research and practice (4). Retrieved from

The Parent's with Children that have Special Needs


Children who have special needs require more attention from their parents and this can cause parents to become stressed. This stress can affect their relationship with their children and each other.


Stresses in the Family

This article describes the stresses parents experience on a day to day basis.

The Effects of Autism in Families and in Partner Relationships

  • Family life is all about relationships and communication between two people.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders are all about communication challenges, misunderstanding of social cues, and lack of emotional understanding, thus affecting every relationship in the family.
  • “It has been estimated that the divorce rate is in the 80% range in families with children who have autism. “ (Bolman, 2006)
  • This statistic proves how many married couples can’t handle the difficulties that may arise while having an autistic child.

3 Major groups of Factors That Causes Stress on the Parents

  • Child characteristic in particular behavioral symptoms associated with autism and the behavioral problems.
  • Lack of adequate professional support and unsatisfactory relationships between parents and professionals from the stage of autism diagnosis to limited access to medical and educational services for the child.
  • Social attitudes towards individuals with autism and lack of understanding for problems they and their family experiences.

Marital Stresses Parents Have to Deal With

  • The child may have toileting issues
  • Little communication skills
  • Aggression and other inappropriate behaviours
  • Marital stress begins to start when one or both of the parents realize the child is not developing properly.
  • The added loss of child they knew beginning to slip away as the disorder regresses around 18-24 months.
  • Parents become most stressed when there is no diagnosis given to what their child has.
  • Having strong relationships takes time for communication and for the couple to spend time together.
  • This gets taken away from them because they have to pay more attention to their children, creating a tense relationship for the couple.
  • Overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted, the couple’s communication becomes impaired and even autistic-like, lacking emotion and reciprocity. This can affect other children in the family.

Stress on the Father

  • Works hard to earn extra money.
  • Becomes frustrated at the demands of their wives to interact or play with the child.
  • Begins to feel less important in the child’s life as the mother takes on a different role with the child.
  • Dads can start to become distant from their wives.

Stress on the Mother

  • Moms become frustrated at the lack of involvements of their partners.
  • Common pattern among moms is to wonder what they did wrong.
  • They begin to wonder did they drink too much, or take medications during the pregnancy, or exercise too much.
  • These thoughts bring on the feeling of guilt and add more stress.
  • The mother begins to feel extra responsible since she was the carrier of the child for 9 months. (1)

Parental stressed Caused by Social Attitudes

  • Parents begin to stress about responses of other to their Childs behavior, as well as general lack of knowledge on autism.
  • The contrast between the Childs appearance, which betrays no signs of disability, and their behavior, which is perceived as abnormal and “stranger”, frequently puts parents in very un- pleasant situations.
  • Social disapproval for the Childs behavior leads to stigmatization, experience shame for parents, and their exclusion from normal social activities.
  • Lack of awareness determines the attitudes and behavior towards people with autism.
  • The way society perceives their children can cause anxiety among parents as they worry about how their child will adapt in the future. (2)

Introspection: Looking Glass Self

  • “We use others as a mirror to see what we are.” (Butt, 2004)
  • This quote is found in Trevor’s Butt book Understanding People where psychologist Mead basis his studies on social psychology and how people react according to the situation they are in and also how others perceive you.
  • This quote also relates to the theory of the “looking glass self.”
  • Charles Horton Cooley introduced this theory and explained that a person’s self grows out of society’s interpersonal interactions and perceptions of others.
  • This relates to how society sees autistic people because how people react to children with special needs determines how comfortable they will feel in the public eye.
  • If society was comfortable with special need children behaviors it would allow parents to be at ease and not worry about how their children will be treated.
  • By these reactions from society it can make the child feel “abnormal” and put more guilt on the parents knowing that their child will never feel accepted.
  • According to the looking glass self if society would react in a positive way to these children it could allow the children to possibly control their behavior and act accordingly but where there is one form of negativity there will be a reflection of that emotion. (3)
  • This video further explains how society reacts to the autistic child and how it makes the parents feel**

WWYD Real Life Autism Situation

Down Syndrome

Health Issues

  • Most children with Down Syndrome suffer from heart defect
  • According to Dr. Dan Schneider, "Congenital heart disease (the presence of a structural heart defect at birth) occurs in 40-50% of children with Down Syndrome and cardiac abnormalities are probably the most common malformations seen in trisomy 21"
  • Children with Down Syndrome are more prone to such health issues and diseases
  • Another health issue, main children with DS suffer with is having high blood pressure
  • These constant health issues can cause parents to be overwhelmed and being constantly worried about their child's safety and survival
  • Always having a child that may become sick easily forces parents to take precautions that can become quite expensive and time consuming
  • This leaves parents little time for themselves resulting in exhaustion and overwhelming pressure/stress (5)

Financial Problems

  • Children who have down syndrome require medication, psychotherapy and special education
  • The cost of all these necessities and hospitalization begins to add up to a costly price at roughly $8742 a year
  • "Medical and social service costs for children with Down Syndrome are also significantly higher than for other children" (McGrath, et all)
  • In most families one parent is to leave their jobs in order to take care and spend all the time with their special needs child
  • Parents may have to result to working part time instead in order to prevent going into debt, and also making more their time available to help take care of their child/children (6)

Divorce Rates

  • Studying the nature, timing, and correlates of divorce in families of children with Down Syndrome, other birth defects, and no identified disability
  • Divorce rates among families of children with Down Syndrome are lower compared to the 2 groups

*A higher proportion occurred within the first 2 years after the child's birth

  • Mothers and fathers of children with Down Syndrome are much more likely to divorce if they were younger, had no graduated from high school, if fathers were less educated and lived in a rural area
  • Parents who are more ducted and older are able to handle the situation

Autism vs. Down Syndrome Stress

  • Study examined the adjustments in parents of 3 groups of families with autistic and down syndrome children
  • Parents of autistic children generally reported more family stress and adjustment problems than parents with children with down syndrome
  • Although parents of disabled children reported more stress associated with caring for their child
  • Generally showed resilience in adjusting to the presence of a society disabled family member (7)


Behaviourism is a very significant psychological phenomena that can be compared with parents who have children with special needs to explain their actions and behaviours. V. Mark Durand studied ways to help parent who have children whom are mentally retarded and have developmental disabilities. He believed that the use of positive behaviour to support families with these challenges are apparent. He describes a new intervention approach for families who have difficulties in implementing future plans and present situations with their special needs child/children called the positive family intervention. This is a combination of positive behaviour support and behavioural intention to assist families in reaching their goals. They focused on conditioning the parents to have different responses to the child’s actions. The child’s action would be considered the stimulus and the parents will be simply modifying their behaviour. (4)

APA reference

(1) Sicile-Kira, Chantal (2008) Autism College. The Affects of Autism In Families and Partner Relationships.
(2) Pisula, Ewa. (2003) Parenting Stress in Mothers and Fathers of Children with ASD.
(3) Butt, Trevor. (2004) Understanding People. Book.
(4) Durand, V. M., Hieneman, M., Clarke, S., & Zona, M. (2009). Optimistic parenting: Hope and help for parents with challenging children Springer Publishing Co, New York, NY. doi:
(5) Schneider, D. (n.d.). The heart and children with down syndrome. Retrieved from
(6) McGrath, R., Stransky, M., Cooley, W., & Moeschler, J. (2011). National profile of children with down syndrome: Disease burden, access to care, and family impact. 1-5. Retrieved from NatlSurveyArti JPeds 2011.pdf
(7) Sanders, J. L., & Morgan, S. B. (1997). Family stress and adjustment as perceived by parents of children with autism or down syndrome: Implications for intervention. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 19(4), 15-32. Retrieved from

Tips For Families

Autism and Down syndrome are common special needs that circulate around the world today. Many parents may have a difficult time finding ways to allow their children to become comfortable and teach them in a proper way. There are tips and services available that are presented here.

Case study

A study that represents a behaviour analysis and formed useful tips through research is as follows:
Training Parents & Professionals to help Children with Autism in China: The Contribution of Behaviour Analysis
Author: Yanqing, Guoll Peking University, Beijing, China.
A training program is presented with 2 parts. (1)

1. Professional training is received by graduate students at the Institute for Mental Health of Beijing University, based on the principles of behaviour assessment and modification, radical behaviourism and applied research methods.
2. Parent training focused on parents with autistic children, using the behaviour analysis and modification methods.

Other Facts of the Study

  • 400 000 & 800 000 children with autism across the country.
  • Parents or the primary caregivers of the child, not the government or the community, take responsibility for the child’s rehabilitation.
  • The Rehabilitation diagnosis began in 1982 focusing on clinical appearances.
  • Later on turned into rehabilitation of behaviour analysis around the year 2000.
  • These professionals and main point of this study is that they are trying to increase behavioural rehabilitation rather than relying on medical treatment that the child with special needs will become dependent on for the rest of their lives.
  • By assessing their behaviour these professionals are able to find ways that parents can aid their child in growing physically and mentally without the use of medication.
  • The process of examining ones behaviour and finding ways to treat autism can allow these children to become more comfortable in societies eyes and possible capable of doing what other children with autism and other special needs. (1)

10 Tips for Parents with Children who have Down syndrome

1. Love your child as you would any other. Focus first on the fact that it is your child, and then on the special need.
Children with Down syndrome often are affectionate and joyous. Learn from them how to enjoy life.

2. Don’t underestimate your child’s potential. Don’t set any upper limits, and you maybe surprised.

3. Play with your child.

4. Get therapy—speech, occupational, physical and educational—as soon as possible.

5. Integrate your child into the community as much as possible.

6. Follow through if your pediatrician recommends that your child see medical specialists.

7. Encourage your child to play with toys or different sizes and textures.

8. Say your child’s name often, especially when giving praise.

9. Accept that your child will develop at their own speed and in their own way.

10. Accept that your child will develop at their own speed and in their own way. (2)

Main Tips for Parents who have Children with Autism

  • Learn about autism.
  • Become an expert on your child.
  • Accept your child, quirks and all.
  • Don’t give up.

Tip 1: Provide Structure and Safety.
Be consistent

  • Children with autism have a hard time adapting what they’ve learned in one setting to others, including the home.
  • For example, your child may use sign language at school and should continue to do so at home so they become comfortable using it everywhere.

Tip 2: Find Non- verbal ways to Connect
Look for nonverbal cues

  • If you are observant and aware, you can learn to pick up on the nonverbal cues that children with autism use to communicate.

Tip 3: Create a personalized autism treatment plan
Tailored treatment

  • Your child’s treatment should be tailored according to his or her individual needs
  • What are my child’s strengths / weaknesses
  • What behaviours cause most problems
  • Important skills my child is lacking

Tip 4: Find Help and Support
Autism support groups

  • Joining a group is a great way to meet other families dealing with the same challenges you are. (3)

HELP Services

Autism Services

Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services

Autism Speaks Light it Up Blue


Down syndrome Services

Canadian Down syndrome Society

  • Society connecting families with children who have Down syndrome.
  • Background information about and what services Canada provides.
  • Main society for Down syndrome in Canada sponsored by the government.

Ups and Downs


APA references
(1) Yanqing. PsychInfo. 30 April 2007. Training Parents and Professionals to Help Children with Autism in China: The contribution of Behavior. 30 April, 2007.
(2) Help Guide. December 2013. Helping Children With Autism. Retrieved from:
(3) Care: There For You 2007. Caring for a Child with Down syndrome. Retrieved from:

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License