When people think of therapy, they often think there has to be a “big” issue before they seek out support and advice. That simply isn’t the case. Therapy is about learning – for kids and for parents. It is about finding the best tools to support your child’s ability to thrive and be happy at home and school. Special needs children, whether it is ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia, behavioral issues, health issues, anxiety, or depression, need as much pro-active support as they can to be ready for the increased challenges they may face. There are many therapies for learning disabilities and ADHD and traditional counseling is one of them. Here are nine reasons why counseling helps the special needs child.
Probably the single most important thing any parent can do is to teach their child how to cope with stress. In our fast-paced, intense world, we are living with high-stress levels with little downtime. Today, there is little tolerance for the uncomfortableness that comes with stress and giving kids the tools to self-manage uncomfortable feelings is a gift for today and tomorrow. Building frustration tolerance is different for every child. Some who have a natural stress tolerance have a more “sunny” disposition whereas other children need to develop that skill. Whatever the disposition or skill set, a child can learn healthy coping skills assisted by counseling.
One of the most critical ways to learn how to manage stress is to have the ability to make a mind-body connection. We all hold stress in our body, and some of us are better at noticing the alerts our bodies give us when our brain is stressed. When we learn to recognize that chest tightening, sweating, or increased heart rate, we need to take a moment and get back in balance. Therapists instruct children and adults on how to make a mind-body connection with a type of therapy called Somatic Therapy. This therapy emphasizes tracking sensations through the body and directly teaching how to recognize them, as well as breath work, mindfulness, movement, and sometimes healing touch.
Many learning disability symptoms result from dysregulation of the Central Nervous System (CNS) thus impacting behavioral and emotional regulation. When children or teens get into a pattern of overreacting to situations, people, or stimuli, they find breaking that pattern very hard without direct therapeutic support. Neurobiological reasons for self-regulations difficulties are often confused with learning disability symptoms. Therapists who work with special needs children are trained to not only support the children and teens but teach parents how to manage the behaviors that come along with self-regulation issues. A therapist can help children and parents gain the needed tools to change family dynamics and create healthy behaviors.
Most often, a diagnosis such as ADHD or a learning disability arises out of executive function issues. Some individuals have a natural ability to focus and organize easily, and others do not. The brain’s frontal lobe controls executive functioning skills giving organization and order to our actions and behavior. Executive functions involve planning for the future, strategic thinking, ability to inhibit or delay responding, self-regulation, initiating behavior, and shifting between activities flexibly. When kids have issues with executive functioning, any task that requires these skills becomes a challenge. Although often considered characteristics of a learning disability, these challenges can be overcome with therapeutic executive function coaching giving people the ability to manage and juggle multiple tasks, orient to their environment differently, and attend better with direct skill set instruction.
For most, developing and maintaining friendships is a natural process. However, for some special needs children and teens can have developmental delays or clinical issues that interfere with their social skills. Developmental lags can occur in all areas, including social thinking and social functioning, such as initiating social interactions, maintaining social interactions, or understanding social pragmatics. Whether it is a clinical issue or a developmental lag, these issues can interfere with their ability to relate to others by inhibiting impulse control with peers that make getting along with others or keep friendships difficult. Direct instruction in the social realm teaches how to manage the different components of social interactions and pragmatic language communication. Social thinking skills can be learned with direct guidance and support from a highly trained and skilled therapist in a one-to-one session or group setting.
Children with special needs often aren’t successful in their job as a student. They may have difficulty with paying attention, reading, socializing or a combination of issues which all lower their self-esteem. Working with a therapist to find ways to improve feelings of self-worth can make a huge difference and prevent later high-risk behaviors. Ultimately, for parents, it is about ensuring that your child’s or teen’s emotional core is secure.
Because so many tasks can be a challenge for the special needs child, they only see what they can’t do. Counseling is all about understanding all the parts of oneself. For the special needs child, identifying strengths and weaknesses can help them adapt and learn more comfortably. Validating and explaining the hardships empowers kids. They often know something is wrong, and instead of feeling ashamed, they can feel better by understanding why they struggle. A skilled therapist can help parents and children harness the child’s strengths and lead with them.
Special needs children and teens can have a hard time connecting with their emotions due to stress and anxiety. Therapists help kids put words to emotions so that can connect with their feelings rather than being overwhelmed by stress. For parents, learning how to support their children with emotional language in a positive manner may not come naturally. While neurotypical children may be able to pick up emotional language, sometimes special needs children need to be explicitly taught this skill. Counseling can help parents and children learn the language tools necessary to discuss emotions in a way the lessens behavioral responses to stress.
Finding the right guidance from a trained therapist to support your special needs child can be invaluable. For some parents, counseling means getting coaching through a tough parenting moment. For others, it means getting regular help that addresses your child’s clinical issues. Therapists can help parents navigate the hurdles of childhood and adolescence that are often more challenging for the special needs child.
Whether your child has ADHD, a learning disability, or requires educational aids for dyslexia treatment, therapy for families and children can help address the underlying causes of a learning disability, executive functioning issue, attentional problem, or the external stressors the special needs child faces.
To make an appointment with Dr. Roseann to discuss how one of our clinically effective and natural therapies can help you or your child, or to meet with one of our psychotherapists call 203.438.4848 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Roseann is a Psychologist who works with children, adults, and families from all over the US, supporting them with research-based and holistic therapies that are bridged with neuroscience. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, Certified Integrative Medicine Mental Health Provider (CMHIMP) and is a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS) and Epidemic Answers. She is also a member of the American Psychological Association (APA), National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), Connecticut Counseling Association (CCA), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF) International Society for Neurofeedback and Research (ISNR) and The Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback (AAPB).
©Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2019