Do you parent or teach a child with special needs? When you consider your child’s progress, do you want to see improvement in behavior, daily living skills, or academics? There is one critical factor that is the most important way to help a child with special needs needs to succeed.

The Most Important Way to Help a Child with Special Needs to Succeed

A study conducted among families of children who are developmentally delayed or typically developing assessed children at ages 3, 5, and 7 years to research factors in successful improvement of behavior.

What do you think was the most important influence on children’s behavior over a long term?

  • Was it early intervention?
  • Was it the amount of TV and screen time?
  • Was it parenting skills?

None of these was the predominant factor that influenced children’s behavior improvements.

The number one indicator of a child’s improved behavior was the mother’s level of optimism. (Parenting Children with Developmental Delays: The Role of Positive Beliefs, 2010.)

Other studies support these findings as well as the importance of optimism across a variety of situations.

Your optimism, your hope for your child’s future, and your belief that behavior will improve is far more important than any other factor for helping your special needs child.

Your optimism is more important than your parenting skills.

Your optimism is more important that your society status, income, or neighborhood.

Your optimism is more important than the right program, school, or therapy.

Research proves that your optimism changes your child for the better.


Parent Optimism and Children with Behavioral Needs

If you are parenting a child with behavior needs, your optimistic outlook is especially critical.

Your positive outlook will improve your child’s behavior for the better.

As a mom who parents children with significant emotional and behavior needs, I understand this challenge. This type of parenting is exhausting and overwhelming.

Does it almost feels like one more burden to say you now have to be optimistic on top of your long list of to-dos?

What if the outlook for your child seems grim? What if his or her behavior needs are overwhelming you and the whole family?

For several years one of our sons was in a downward spiral with his negative behaviors. Each behavior seemed to build on the next until our family was in a constant state of crisis. Despite high-level interventions, he wasn’t getting better.

I can honestly say my emotional status went right down the spiral with his behavior.

I’m a generally optimistic person, but daily rages, police visits, physical danger, and property destruction left me completely fried.

Yet, I am the parent.

My child’s attitude or behavior is his to own, but my attitude is mine. I am responsible for myself, and as the parent it is my job to set the tone for our house.

One day when we were going through an especially rough patch, I complained to our in home therapist. She gently but honestly told me – it’s always your job to take the first step toward mending the relationship with your son, because you are the parent.

This was painful for me to hear, but an important truth that has changed my parenting.

The most important way to help a child with special needs to succeed is to believe he will. 

It’s that simple – and that difficult.


Make the Decision

I made a decision.

I believe that my children’s behaviors will improve and they will be successful members of society.

I pray for my children continually.

I trust that God has the best in mind for them.

I see continual blessings, improvements, and positive outcomes for my kids.

I do not ignore the negatives, but I choose to focus on the good.

I do not write these words easily. One of our children is currently in a residential treatment facility. Another of our boys will have life-long challenges.

Yet with absolute sincerity and by the grace of God, I say this:

My kids are going to make it.


If you are parenting a child with special needs, how do you maintain a positive outlook?

The Most Important Way to Help a Child with Special Needs to Succeed|The Holy Mess

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