Parenting twins can be challenging. No one would argue that. When you are parenting children with special needs, being a Mom or Dad takes on a whole new level of demand. Whether one or both of your twins has been diagnosed with special needs, how you parent and support your children is impacted.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics 2016 data, there were 131,723 twin births that year, meaning 33.4 per 1,000 live births was a twin birth. While the literature is not clear on just how many of these babies are born with physical or cognitive impact, studies suggest that in the case of multiples the risk of special needs is higher than the average pregnancy. Whether it be due to shorter gestation, premature birth, or maternal health issues, twins are at a higher risk of being born with Special Needs (SPNs).
For many new parents, special needs often feel like an insurmountable obstacle. Yes, it adds another list of considerations, but parenting a SPN child can unlock so many wonderful benefits for parents and their children. Here we will look at some important information on how parents can support their twins with special needs.
Supporting Your Special Needs Twin and their Sibling
Parenting SPNs twins varies depending upon whether one or both children are born with additional needs. When only one twin has special needs, the biggest struggle for many parents is how they will be able to meet the needs of the SPN twin, but also be a great parent for both babies. Finding this balance can be very difficult for parents.
There are a few important things to keep in mind when raising a special needs twin and a more typically developing twin. First and foremost, remember that no matter how mild or severe the special needs may be, there is plenty of love to go around. You may sometimes feel divided, and that’s normal.
Every new twin parent feels divided. They question whether they will have the energy and time to care for two babies. When one or both of those babies is born with special needs this can make parents truly question how they will get it all done. Thankfully, parents have an innate ability to spread their time, energy and love around to all their children, no matter their level of need. While it might not seem like it at first, there really is enough time and love to give both of your children everything they need.
Another helpful hint is to learn to rely on the love and support of friends and family. Raising a special needs child often means extra doctor visits and sometimes even hospital stays. Instead of bringing both babies to those appointments, allow one of your twins to spend some special time with a family member or friend who can give them their undivided attention. This may even help create special bonds with those who love your children.
Supporting Special Need Twins
In a situation where you are raising two SPNs babies’ parents may feel an even bigger stress load. How can you possibly meet both of their unique needs and give them the love and support they need to grow and thrive?
It may seem overwhelming at first, but it is possible. Keep in mind that when raising two special needs babies finding the right support people will make the process so much easier. This includes the right doctors, therapists, nurses, caregivers and even online support sites where you can find parents walking a similar path. But it also includes finding the right family members and friends who you can rely on when you need an extra set of hands. These people will become the village so often talked about when raising children.
It is also very important to find time to unwind and de-stress. Let’s face it, raising two special needs children isn’t an easy task. There plenty of stress and worry to go around, so it is even more important to manage your stress levels. Exercise, take some time for yourself, spend time as a couple, meditate, or do whatever helps you reduce stress and take care of you.
Supporting Your Twins Through Infancy
Each developmental stage looks a little different when raising special needs twins. In the early months, supporting your babies will often come in the form of finding the doctors or therapists that are needed to care for them medically or developmentally. Find medical professionals who you feel comfortable with and who offer you the support you need as a parent. These people, along with your “village” will get you through a lot of difficult periods. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Some parents worry that bonding with babies who have special needs may be more difficult. In reality, most parents find that bonding with a SPNs child is no different than bonding with a typically developing baby. Research has shown that with the right support, parents can easily bond with their baby, even after the initial shock of an unexpected diagnosis.
It is all a matter of learning to be patient with your babies, yourself and your partner.
Supporting Your Twins Through Toddlerhood
By the time your children reach toddlerhood, you have established routines, found support people and have started the process of looking beyond disability. As children get a little older, parents are often tasked with adjusting to their child’s unique learning needs. Infancy is all about bonding and caring for your children, but the toddler years are meant for learning.
If it seems like your children are not developing as quickly as their peers, it is wise to pursue an evaluation by a learning or education professional. They can help develop a plan to suit the specific needs of your children.
Supporting Your Twins Through School Age
As your twins reach the school-age years, parents often go through a whole new set of stressors. Sending them out into the world and not being with them can cause high levels of worry and stress. This period of adjustment can be tough for parents and their special needs twins. Regardless of whether your children are in a traditional classroom, or they require a classroom with more academic support, remember that you are your child’s advocate. No one knows them better than you and most teachers know this. Once you feel comfortable helping get them the resources they need in school, it can be a very freeing experience.
In addition to meeting their academic needs, this is also an important time to promote their self-esteem. Maybe they look a little different than their peers or have difficulty with speech or motor skills. As a parent, it is important to help your children see themselves the way you see them. Take opportunities to talk to them about how wonderful they are and how much they have to give to the world.
Supporting Your Twins Through the Teen Years
The teen years are undoubtedly difficult for any parent. When parenting a special needs twins (or two!) there can be additional difficulties. Chances are, your twins will experience all of the normal teen hormones, changes, and struggles. Top this with being “different” and the going can get tough. This is where you as a parent can help your children deal with their self-image. Help them deal with being “different” in different ways. Encourage them to be open about their diagnosis (if they are comfortable). Find ways that they can interact with their peers in different activities. Look for opportunities for your twins to have as many successes as possible.
Supporting Your Twins as They Leave the Nest
By the time your special need twin(s) are ready to leave the nest, you have probably done just about everything you could think of to get them to this moment. But, what most of us who are raising older children already know, you are a parent forever.
Once your special needs twins are ready to leave the nest, your job becomes that of helping them navigate the world from afar. Your task is to find a way to be their support system, but not a nag. Regular “check-ins” are important to make sure your children are not experiencing any hiccups along the way.
When we are tasked, as parents, to support our special needs twin or twins, our jobs as parent and parent of multiples becomes that much harder. There are many ways you can support them and help them become the wonderful people they are meant to be. Raising twins with special needs does not have to be a hardship. In fact, for most parents, it is an incredibly rewarding experience.
About the Author: