Dads must be present when helping raise a child with special needs

The average guy finds it hard to sit still and listen. He jumps into problem-solving mode, especially when lacking the words to express what he is experiencing. However, he yearns for a connection with his children. This connection is important when raising typically developing kids, but even more critical when raising kids with special needs. For men, struggling to be present with their children with special needs is quite common. This article offers advice on how to achieve this presence.


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  • watch, wait and observe
  • avoid interrupting
  • limit screen time
  • understand the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown

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  • allow yourself to get frustrated
  • overlook the importance of practicing patience
  • expect a magical transformation
  • underestimate the need to show interest in your children

[publishpress_authors_data]'s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do watch, wait and observe

Start where your child is. Watch, wait and observe. You will often find out something unexpected that you can build upon.

Do avoid interrupting

Learn to listen and wait until your child finishes what he/she is saying. Interrupting usually comes from thinking about what you're going to do or say—instead of being present with what the other is saying. Try to allow a pause after someone finishes speaking to avoid interrupting.

Do limit screen time

It can be extremely frustrating to engage a child who prefers video games to conversations. Limiting screen time is important to achieve one-on-one face time with children. Because summers allow for more unscheduled free time, take this opportunity to take your child outside and away from screens.

Do understand the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown

A tantrum suggests communicating the intent to get something, whereas a meltdown is a sensory, emotional or cognitive overload. Both call for adults to be calm and receptive in order to help the child to organize him or herself. It is very important to wait it out and talk about it at a later time. A child's specific sensory profile may be key to understanding what instigates a meltdown.

Presence means controlling yourself and providing a calm environment, thereby modeling what it means to de-escalate from the meltdown. It is vital to send your child the message that you are both in it together, and when it is over, you will figure it out together. If possible, find a way to buffer the overload or help your child get out of it. Use your relationship during the hardest times to figure out your options.

[publishpress_authors_data]'s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not allow yourself to get frustrated

Children with physical disabilities or certain behaviors tend to require a great deal of assistance and attention. This forces a father to be constantly present but can create frustration. It is important to control this frustration. Moments of frustration can be transformed when fathers are able to stay calm and change into a problem-solving mode. This can be a lens of opportunity, which enables fathers to figure things out.

Do not overlook the importance of practicing patience

Sometimes, fathers can be impatient for their child to learn a simple skill, such as swinging on the playground swing. It is important to be patient and wait until your child figures it out. By taking this approach, a father can enjoy himself and his child in the moment.

Do not expect a magical transformation

The reality of raising a child with special needs is quite different from the epiphany that one might watch in a Hollywood movie. There is usually no magical transformation. Rather, something special happens between you and your child, initiating your desire to change, to be more patient, to be a better person.

Do not underestimate the need to show interest in your children

In addition to being patient and listening, show interest in your children by asking questions. Invite your children to describe their interests in detail. Learn the names of the characters in their favorite movies and books. Paying attention to what your children are interested in is key. Remember: To ask children to enter our world, we must first enter theirs.


Raising a child with special needs is a moment-by-moment experience. Average men show their love and support through action. However, sometimes pausing, taking a step back and being calm and present is the very first step. When action is required, this pause can help men use their desire to find solutions more effectively.

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