Common Emotions Experienced when receiving  a diagnosis of having a child with special needs


A whole range of complex feelings can engulf a parent whose child has been determined to have, or be at risk for, disabilities of various kinds.

Once you find out that your child has, or may have, special needs of a medical type, you may experience all of these feelings, or only a few.  The order in which you process your emotions isn't fixed - it can be as individual as you are.


It may seem impossible for daughter to have the medical condition that you are being told she has. A mother or father often believes that even if their daughter has a specific diagnosis, she can't be as bad as other kids with it. A parent may have been told that his or her child has cerebral palsy or Down syndrome – but when thinking of people the parent knows or has met with that same condition, think that the parent's own child cannot possibly be like that person. Denial does not mean that you are stupid. It's a normal occurrence. It's what our brains do.


Maybe you feel that medical incompetence caused your child's condition – whether or not this is the case.  You may resent being told about the condition because it feels like the person explaining things is causing them. Anger can be turned on family members unless extra efforts at communication are made at this time. Family strife and even divorces have occurred as the result of the stress brought on by the arrival of a child with demanding special needs. On the other hand, many wonderful families have taken responsibility to save their family's stability by learning about the emotions they are experiencing, and choosing to face this challenge in a united manner. Reading articles is a good step. Counseling may be another.  


Life can seem horrible. You feel pain akin to mourning.


You actually are mourning. Your loss is that of the child you imagined would be – who will never be.


You feel anxious for your son: What will he be able to accomplish in life? Will others accept him? Will he die? You panic for you, wondering: Can you handle this in your life? How do you deal with all this information?  Where can you find the kind of support that will help you be strong?