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Understanding Childhood Disabilities

Special Programs for a Disabled Child

Sooner or later, a disabled child will likely attend a special program, like a camp or day care program. Here are some guidelines on choosing a special program.

Choosing a Special Program

Many disabilities have national associations, such as the March of Dimes for genetic disorders, that provide information and recommend programs or resources. Many of those associations have local chapters and parent-support groups.

If you are lucky enough to have a choice of programs, how do you choose the one that is best for your child? You should base your decisions on how comfortable you are with the professionals in the available programs and the therapies they present. Some therapies are less well known and not as widely available as other therapies. Frequently, educators differ on the subject of learning sequence; some educators of the deaf, for instance, believe in introducing sign language to children almost immediately, while others believe children should have strictly auditory-oral training before any signs are introduced. Because the opinions and methods of professionals differ, investigate a number of programs before committing yourself and your child to a particular one. If you consider a private program with private therapists, remember that the cost of a program is not necessarily an indication of its quality or appropriateness.

While factors of cost and convenience will certainly influence your decision, parents should also consider other factors:

  • How long can the program serve your child?
  • Is it a new program using experimental techniques or an established program that uses widely accepted therapies?
  • How well trained are the therapists who will work with your child?
  • Who supervises the therapists' work?
  • What does the therapist expect of you?
  • Does he or she seem willing to share his or her expertise with you?
  • Does the therapist want you to understand his or her methods?
  • Does the therapist seem capable of establishing a good rapport with your child?
  • If the program is new, will it continue to receive funding, or do sponsors need to raise funds each year?
  • How many children does the program currently serve, and what is the ratio of staff to students?
  • Are children with multiple disabilities combined in classrooms with children who have only one or two clearly defined disabilities?

Professionals' expectations. Perhaps the most important factor in choosing a program is the expectations of the professionals involved. Each child is different and brings to the program his own determination to succeed. Parents may see strengths and recognize progress professionals miss. If the professionals' expectations are too low, your child may not proceed as quickly as you feel appropriate. And if their expectations are too high, your child may feel frustrated.

Your Relationship with the Professionals

Most professionals welcome and encourage active parental involvement in decisions affecting the child. However, professionals are human, with human emotions and responses. While it is safe to assume most professionals who deal with children with disabilities have an interest in seeing them well taken care of, professionals may bring to their work certain prejudices and preconceptions that do not serve the interests of all children. You will have your own opinions; express them. You should be able to talk openly with professionals about your concerns and questions. If the therapist is too busy for or resists such discussions, or if you find such meetings unproductive and unsatisfying, you should consider finding a new program or therapist. While it is in the interest of the child to have continuity of care over the long run, it is best to change programs if you believe your child is not adequately served.

Another major consideration for parents of a disabled child is when and where you will send your child to school. We will review the options available in the next section.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.