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Pity!? – What Children With Special Needs Really Need

By Helen Rauch-Elnekave
Ph.D. Pediatric Psychologist

(Page 3 of 3)

Shai's parents have assigned him household chores along with his siblings. He rides his bike in the yard, takes care of his own needs independently, and even goes to the movies. They do not make excessive concessions for him and have avoided giving him the feeling that he has special rights because of his problems. Shai's mother reported that she expects Shai to clean his room by himself, "Otherwise, he won’t be able to find his things!" Shai is a regular member of his family, not the most important one.

When I asked Shai's mother how a child with so many problems could be so "normal," she explained that she and Shai's father decided to make every effort to assure that their son would live as normal a life as possible.

Today, Shai is a happy, imaginative, intelligent and independent child, for whom the clinic staff wait with anticipation at the time of his monthly visit.


Shai is living testimony to the importance of not letting pity blind us to the needs and innate strengths of children with special needs.

 As parents, we must be honest and recognize our unexamined feelings regarding our special children. We can expect to feel anger at our child with special needs, or at the universe, because it is a natural, human reaction. What we can throw away is the guilt and feelings of omnipotence that cause us to react in unnatural ways to our children. Guilt only causes problems and omnipotence is a kind of arrogance.

An added benefit of indulging our children with special needs less is having the time and energy to give a bit more prominence to the needs of our well children. They have been so understanding, but many have experienced a degree of emotional neglect.

Helen Rauch-Elnekave, Ph.D. is a semi-retired pediatric psychologist with 30 years of clinical experience. Her specializations include Medical/Pediatric Psychology and Developmental Psychology. Dr. Rauch-Elnekave is currently living and practicing in Israel.


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