There is an ongoing need for programs and institutions that offer comprehensive programs for special needs children. Some families say that having a child with special needs is a unique parenting experience that can have a great impact on the family routine and add stress. However, studies show that most Latino mothers view having a child with special needs as bringing about positive transformations in their lives. Latino families have also described having a child with special needs as an opportunity to grow to be good parents and valuable individuals.
In the Chicago-land area alone, up to 15 percent of students are considered disabled or with special needs and finding suitable outlets for education and support has become more and more difficult, especially for Latino families.
The most important thing a parent can do if there is concern about a child’s development is to quickly find the cause and what medical issues may be affecting them, if any. Parents can do this by finding programs that test for developmental and/or mental disorders. These programs, called “early intervention programs,” can be found at a local pediatrician or neighborhood clinic. Infants and young children who may benefit from medical diagnostic services include those with one or more of the following indicators:
• Delay in all areas with no medical diagnosis to explain the delay.
• Motor delay or abnormalities of move-ment with no diagnosis.
• Behavioral problems and developmental delay.
• Abnormalities in language, socialization and behavior.
• No gains in development following therapeutic intervention.
In Chicago these tests can be done at any Children Development Center (Illinois Masonic Hospital) – 773-296-7340.
If your child is diagnosed as special needs, or needs help with his or her development, the Chicago Latino community offers programs across the city and can take children as young as 2 years old. These programs consist of speech therapy, social development, motor skills and language skills. These programs are all part of the Head Start program. Parents can find these programs at:
• Casa Central: www.casacentral.org
• El Valor: www.elvalor.org
Once a child is ready to go to grammar school, parents have a few options, such as private schools, charter schools or the Chicago Public School System (CPS). CPS offers very little to help families with special needs. There have been countless reports of the school system using a blanket approach, placing students with down syndrome and schizophrenia in the same classroom as those with ADHS. This blanket approach has proven to be unsuccessful and often harmful to a child’s development. Charter schools have built a reputation for treating each case as unique.
“CPS took my son and placed him in the back of the school, treating him as different, and taking him away from the important social development situations he desperately needed. I was able to find my son an inclusive summer program through Rowe Elementary school (part of the Noble Charter School program) that challenged my son and motivated him to talk, learn, and function like a normal kid should. Rowe has been amazing and they are the first I would recommend for any parent of any child,” said a local parent, Fiorella Reto.
All parents want their children to be treated as equals, regardless of condition. It is extremely important for parents to maintain a relationship with their child’s school and be involved as much as possible in their child’s education.
This post is also available in: Spanish
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