Challenges of Parenting a Child with Special Needs

Raising children is tough work. When they’re infants, they can’t use words to tell you what they need. And they need you for literally everything. They rely on you to feed them, clothe them, bathe them, and put them to bed. You think it’s going to be easier when they start talking. But when they’re talking and walking, they bring new challenges. And once they’re in school, your life gets busier as you shuttle them back and forth or attend school functions. And the next thing you know, they’re teenagers, and that comes with another whole new set of trials. And this is what most parents face with typical children.

If you’re the parent of a child with special needs - whether they are physical, emotional, or behavioral - you’ve got an exceptionally bumpy road to travel. Parenting children with differences is challenging, at best. My heart goes out to these moms and dads.

Everyday events can sometimes require extraordinary emotional effort if you’ve got a child who tends to have a meltdown in the cereal aisle. It’s like there’s a giant spotlight shining on you when you’re out in public, living your life on a stage. And when you get home, you can feel completely isolated. This dichotomy in behavior is exhausting for parents.

Children who are diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, autism, dyslexia, or even speech and language delays often have sensory processing disorder, which just means they can have difficulty with spatial awareness, attention, emotional regulation, and learning. In other words, if your child is acting out, there could be a very good reason behind it.

How somatic therapy can help

Most frequently, I see children at around age four. This is when children are exploring power and control, displaying the most anger, outbursts, and tantrums. However, I work with children of all ages, including those still in the womb.

I tend to work more with families rather than one-on-one with the child because we’re working on repairing attachment and learning to co-regulate. In my sessions, I encourage connection and help the child regulate off a safe adult (a parent) so they are eventually able to self-regulate.

Meet “Dakota”

Dakota was a five-year-old I worked with who had been having frequent fits and anger spells that would last quite a while. At first, when I began working with him, he had even more breakdowns, but they were for shorter and shorter periods. Dakota eventually started going to his room when he would have these fits, and then he’d come out and apologize afterward. He slowly became more self-aware. Eventually, the fits became even less frequent. Now Dakota can play with other children. He recognizes emotions in himself and others.

Help for parents

Again, while I tend to work with whole families, I like sometimes to ask the mom to come in alone for a session so she can get some nurturing just for herself. It can be difficult to hold it together when you feel like you’re barely hanging on in the day-to-day with a problematic child. Sometimes parents are also afraid they’re doing it all wrong, so a solo session allows me to give Mom some clarity.

As parents, we don’t want to give up hope on our children. If one thing doesn’t work, we try the next thing, and then another, until we find something that sticks. It’s exhausting and can feel hopeless at times. That’s why I love so much what I do. I get to work with children and adults through the languages of the body, and the body is a place of hope and inspiration.


I would love to teach you to do what I do. Join me for my intensive training June 20th! This 250-hour course is for psychologists and therapists, movement professionals, educators, and body workers who yearn to incorporate developmental movement principles into their work. Click here to learn more and register for The Whole Person: Embodied Early Developmental Movement & Attachment Therapy Intensive.