A child with special needs will go through the same emotional stages as other children — and then some! At some point a baby will go through separation anxiety whether or not the baby has a special need. She will do things for attention as a toddler and young child. Years later, the same “child” will show some form of rebellion (although it may appear to be minimal) as she enters adulthood.
A strong family bond gives the child a stabilizing influence and something to fall back on when things are difficult. If there is a strong bond across the family, siblings are more likely to seek each other's support as adults during periods of trauma and stress. They are also more likely to trust others (such as spouses) for the same emotional support because they had healthy family bonding as children.
Asking for Help
Healthy emotional preparation for life also involves the ability to ask for help. Everyone needs help sometimes. It is important for your child to know when and how to ask for help and when it is a situation she should be trying on her own.
A good indicator of a child's ability to understand how and when to ask for help is how she approaches her homework. Perhaps she is completing a worksheet on the day's social studies lesson. She easily finds the answers for the first three questions, but the fourth question is not as easy.
Hopefully, she will skip the difficult question and complete the rest of the page. She may even find the tricky answer as she is doing so. If not, she will go back to the question after she has completed the rest of the sheet and look for that answer again. If she still has difficulty, then she will ask for help. She will ask — that is important. It is equally important that she tried (in several ways) before asking.
In the worksheet example above, the child demonstrated independence. Her goal was to complete the activity as best she could. Her goal was not to expect help before trying. Independence in life is important. Adulthood seldom includes someone to jump in and give the answer.
Your child's relationship with extended family members will also contribute to her emotional preparation for life. Through these relationships she will exercise communication and social skills outside of her immediate family.
In most situations, extended family will encourage the child to practice communication, social skills, and independence. On occasion, parents will need to remind extended family members not to coddle or talk down to the child. In other instances, the expectations may be unrealistic for the child.
For example, the child who is autistic will have difficulty with change in routine. Expecting her to be excited when Grandma comes to stay in her room is unrealistic. She may love Grandma dearly, but the change in routine will be unsettling to her. This is a chance to teach the family about the unique needs of your child. Make sure that your child has lots of opportunities to interact with extended family.
Experiences with Non–Family Members
Interacting with non–family members can help your child prepare for the future as well. Contact with non–family members such as teachers, coaches, child care providers, club sponsors, friends, and neighbors can give your child opportunities to practice the same communication and social skills. In most situations, she will be challenged to be more independent. Although others may be anxious to help (sometimes too much), it can take a while for them to decide how to help. Very often a child will go ahead and do for herself.