Having a special needs (SN) child brings with it many of the typical joys of parenting, but let’s not kid ourselves into believing that there aren’t major drawbacks for the parents. As a psychologist and parent of a special needs child of my own, I have detected several negative effects which I’ll describe in detail below.
To begin, there is no strict or clear definition of what it means for a child to have “special needs.” Many people think of special needs as necessarily involving a serious or chronic medical condition. When it comes to these parents, it is clear that the additional demands on parents of chronically ill children cause stress that affects the whole family (Cousino and colleagues, 2013). But chronic illnesses are not the only type of special needs that children have. I am focusing on children with special emotional needs, including children who have a psychiatric diagnosis. I’m referring to the parents of children with severe cases of depression or other mood disorders, ADHD, psychosis, autism, and other emotional and/or cognitive disorders.