Single Parenting Challenges
with Special Needs Children

Written by: Syra Salam

Let’s face it. Single parenting is a tumultuous journey itself. Though it comes with the perks of being accoladed as a father and mom both, it has its share of bitter-sweet moments. However, a strong support system may make this journey a joyride with memories to cherish for a lifetime. Single parenting with special needs kids is an arduous task as it has baggage of responsibilities.  A single mom, for instance, has to juggle her role as a breadwinner and a nurturer. With a special needs child, the chores are multiplied as now it involves more vigilance, therapist visits, fee, special care centers, adding up to the cost of medication, and much more. Yet, it in no way impacts the love the single parent has for their children, with or without special needs. Children are the fuel that energizes the single parenting journey.  


Let’s have a look at the phases of single parent to a special needs child. Specifically, the steps that a single parent usually has to go through when coping with a Special Needs Child. As a Childhood Educator, I have tried to support the challenging phases with guidelines to make each step less demanding. However, it is recommended to seek immediate guidance from a counselor or pediatrician when a parent detects a behavioral or physical concern in their child. 

Stages of adjustment to having a child with special needs and responding to single parents during each phase:

The ostrich Phase

Parents neither deny a disability nor fully recognize its effect. At this stage, we can initiate to point out the problem areas compared to a child with no special needs to make them accept it.

Special Designation

Begin to realize the special need exists and start looking for help. We can help parents link with agencies or special needs staff for the specific disability to facilitate learning and improvement.


Parents try to normalize the situation by making the difference between their child and other children with disabilities less evident by a decrease in special service time and more regular classroom time. We can help advocate and incorporate inclusion in the classroom where a child

attends a classroom with children without special needs.


Parents don’t determine special needs as better or worse, but rather view it as being different and support the child in learning about disability and how to be a self-advocate. We can help parents by providing special resources so the child can be independent.

Resources to look up to for facilitating special needs children’s upbringing:

·   The Government of Canada has devised an action plan to support special needs children and vulnerable people.

What is an IFSP?

IFSP is a child’s individualized family service plan or individualized education program.

What is the purpose of developing an IFSP?

The purpose is to have early intervention for special needs children. For a child younger than three years old, individualized services are provided in-home or childcare settings. It focuses on the family and parent’s role in supporting the child’s learning and development.

Whose involvement is in this process?

Therapists, early intervention specialists, teachers, caregivers, and parents.

Why do some families experience stress when transitioning from childcare to school?

As in childcare, the child has the support of early intervention through the IFSP program.

However, as they shift to the public school system, IEP (individualized education program) is adopted. This transition is difficult as parents have a challenge learning about the new process, education laws, attending meetings, meeting new therapists and school staff, and adjusting the child to new testing and evaluation. Supportive caregivers and teachers can ease this stress.

Some tremendous online parental resources to refer to are:

Complex Child: a monthly magazine by parents of special needs children with disabilities and health care needs.

Strengthening family resilience is a great read to inculcate resiliency in families with stress and challenges. 

The Circle of MA aims to bring hope and light to women who have experienced or is currently going through unpleasant journeys. We offer a haven for women to unleash their strength. With our true stories and inspirational podcasts, we provide a space for you to breathe and to connect. Please reach out to us  if you want to share your story to empower other women who is thriving through their moment of journey.

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