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When Children Have Special Needs
Authors: Saraswathy Ramamoorthy with Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE

You work hard to take good care of the children in your custody. As a childcare provider, you spend a lot of time with the children. You know many little things about them.

Most of the time, things are going well and the children are doing fine. The children seem to be developing on schedule and normally. However, there may be times when you notice something unusual about a child in your care. You may notice the child saying or doing things differently from other children that age. Sometimes you will know why this child is to be different from other children. At other times, you may not know why.

If you see possible problems, you need to talk to the child’s parents about what you have noticed. Let them know what you have seen. Ask them if they have also noticed the same things. You may find out that the child has special needs. Special children need special kinds of teaching and care.

You may notice problems before the parents do. You see many children, and they may see only their own child. You may know more about what is normal. You can be very helpful to the family.

Who are special children?

All children are different from one another in some ways. Some children have red hair, and others have brown eyes. Some children take naps, while others never stop moving. These differences are part of what makes a child special. In the same way, some children are special because they can do things that other children cannot. Some children can write music or solve difficult math problems. These children are known as gifted children.

Other children are special because they cannot do some things that other children can do. Maybe they use a hearing aid or a wheelchair. Maybe they learn differently from other children. These children are said to have a disability or a handicap.

Both gifted and disabled children have special needs and are called special children. They are called special because they grow in ways that are different from other children. It helps to understand how children normally develop. But it is important not to compare gifted and disabled children with other children of their age. Special children will be like other children of their age in some ways, but they will be different from them in other ways. The topics in this section will give you information about different types of disabilities and giftedness.

Why is it important to learn more about children with special needs?

Special children need special types of care and teaching. Children with special needs will do some things differently from other children. Their behavior may seem new or strange to you. You should remember that this is ok. Because these children grow in ways that are different from other children, they also need to learn in ways that are different from other children. What works well with other children may not always work well for them. Some special children may need extra care and attention. Knowing more about the different kinds of special needs will help you understand these children better. You will be better prepared to care for these children in the right way.

There is another important reason to learn about special needs. You can learn about what children with special needs can do. When people do not know much about children with different needs, they focus only on what these children cannot do. This is a mistake. Children with disabilities or disorders can do many things that other children can do. Expect all children to do their best. Be fair. Treat disabled children just as you would treat any other child in most ways.

There is a lot of information in this section. It may not have the answers to all of your questions about children with special needs, though. There are many disabilities and kinds of special needs. Only some are covered here. It is also important to remember that all children are different. Children who share a particular disability are not all the same. The information on the different disabilities and special needs will not exactly fit each and every child you know with that condition. The information in this section is meant to be a start. We hope it helps you understand and learn more about special needs and children who have these needs. And we hope it helps you work with their parents.


Go to:   • Communication disorders

For more information, contact Judith A. Myers-Walls, PhD, CFLE at

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