Kids: Kids With Special Needs
David Sheslow, PhD and D'Arcy Lyness, PhD, Kids Health,
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difficulty breathing and uses a nebulizer (say: neh-byoo-lie-zer),
a treatment device that helps him to breathe easier. He often
runs out of breath when playing sports during recess. Tony's
teachers have mentioned that he has "special needs," which is
why he can't run a lot during gym glass, can't always play
outdoors, and has to go to the emergency department sometimes
when his breathing gets bad. Tony has severe asthma, and when it
flares up, it can be hard for him to breathe.
Sara has a condition called cerebral palsy, so it is difficult
for her to walk and move like everyone else. She uses a
motorized wheelchair to get around. She enjoys school, likes to
read, and has lots of close friends who know she's a great
person. But sometimes she needs extra help, like having her
books brought to her, having doors held open for her, and using
ramps to get into buildings. If places she tries to go to with
her friends aren't accessible by wheelchair, there's no way for
Sara to get inside with everyone else.
Read on to find out more about kids with special needs and what
life is like for kids with these challenges.
What Are Special Needs?
There are many different people in the world, and each one
is special. However, some people may have physical or mental
challenges that require extra help or assistance.
"Special needs describes the extra amount of personal care and
attention that is needed to help kids with any type of physical
or mental challenge lead a comfortable lifestyle," says Paul
Wichansky, MS, a motivational speaker from New Jersey. Mr.
Wichansky leads a program called "Taking the 'Dis' Out of
Disability," and he visits New Jersey schools to talk to kids
about people with special needs.
Special needs can be anything from getting daily shots for
children with diabetes to requiring certain bathrooms and
classrooms in schools for kids with physical disabilities. Some
special needs are:
conditions, like epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or diabetes
disabilities, such as dyslexia
conditions, like anxiety disorders or obsessive-compulsive
special needs are not really different; they just need extra
help doing certain tasks. Some of your best friends might have
special needs, and you can learn a lot by talking to these
friends and asking them questions.
But They Don't Look Any Different!
Some people have special needs that you can notice, like
Sara who uses a wheelchair or a cane, and others have special
needs that you wouldn't know just by looking at them. Although
Tony has special needs, too, he looks just like a regular kid
until his asthma acts up.
Another kid, Sandra, has trouble reading. She has a learning
disability called dyslexia (say: dis-lek-see-uh), and she reads
books that are different than what most other kids in her class
read. Sandra has special needs, too.
Although her needs are probably not as noticeable as Sara's or
maybe even Tony's, they are just as important. She needs extra
help with homework and studying, and also has a special teacher,
called a tutor, who teaches her new words and ideas. When she's
not in school, Sandra likes to hang out with her friends and
talk about clothes and music just like other girls her age.
What Is Life Like for Someone With Special Needs?
During one of his workshops, a fifth grader told Mr.
Wichansky, "I always thought that people with special needs had
difficult lives, but now I know that when they think positive,
their life may be as good as mine or even better." This is true.
For some kids with special needs, life can be extra challenging,
whereas others may need just a bit of help and attention to get
along. Many children have special teachers or therapists who
help them learn new skills.
Some kids will always need medical equipment to help them get
around, like a wheelchair or walker. Kids with diabetes usually
need to check their blood sugar level by pricking their finger
before mealtimes to see if they need a shot of insulin to help
keep their bodies healthy. Some kids have to see certain medical
doctors a lot, or they need help from other people who are
trained to help them live the very best that they can with their
For example, Tony has to visit a doctor called an allergist
(say: ah-ler-jist) once a month. This type of doctor cares for
people with allergies and asthma. Tony has to take allergy
medicines that sometimes make him feel sleepy. He also carries
an inhaler (a small pump-like container that has medicine in
it). Tony uses the inhaler to help him breathe when he's having
an asthma attack.
How You Can Help a Friend With Special Needs
Although each person is different, we all have one thing in
common. We all have or want to have friends. It's important to
help your friends and others with special needs. You can do this
by offering your help and making them feel OK about their
physical or mental conditions.
Here are some other ways to help classmates or others with
If some of your
classmates are teasing your friend, you can help by talking to a
teacher or telling them to stop.
If a friend
feels depressed about his special needs, give him your time and
listen to his feelings and thoughts.
Help friends or
classmates who have physical needs by asking if you can push
their wheelchair or get their school supplies if they can't do
treat your friend with special needs just like you would your
other friends. Invite your friend to have pizza or go to the
mall with you.
You can also
help kids with special needs by learning more about what their
specific need is and being positive. Having a positive attitude,
combined with enthusiasm for getting to know others is catching,
according to Mr. Wichansky. Everyone benefits from a positive
As you grow up,
you'll meet lots of people in this world with different needs
and special gifts. You'll be sure to learn a lot from being
around people who are different than you are and who can share
their experiences with you.
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