Raising a child with special needs takes a lot of time and energy -- it affects a family's finances, employment status, and mental health. Marital problems are more common, families report feeling socially isolated and overwhelmed.

A conference called "Overcoming the Odds: Promoting Resilience for Families with Special Needs" on Saturday aims to teach families coping skills.

Doctors and therapists will offer education and support on topics including advocacy, medication management, legal issues, and social and emotional needs.

The conference is hosted by the Devereux Foundation. Paul LeBuffe, who heads the organization's center for resilient children, says one thing he hopes families will take away is how to work as a cohesive unit and come to some understanding of what this means to them as a family.

"How they are going to adapt to it, how to integrate that child into the family, and have a normal everyday rhythm to their lives and do the same things other families that don't have such unique challenges do, is an important part of family coping," explained LeBuffe.

LeBuffe has personal experience with this issue; he had a daughter with special needs who passed away. Despite all of the difficulties, he says, a sense of hope is key for families to get through this together.

"A greater sense of family unity and cohesion, attachment, and giving families the skills that they need to cope successfully with having a special-needs child, combined with a sense of optimistic future," is the way he describes the hoped-for outcome.

Conference workshops will also address siblings of special-needs children, as well as planning for the future of special-needs kids as parents get older.

Best-selling author Judith Warner, who has written "We've Got Issues: Children and Parents in the Age of Medication," will be the keynote speaker.

 


 

The event will be held Saturday at Rosemont School of the Holy Child, 1344 Montgomery Ave., Rosemont, Pa.. from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Free transportation and onsite child care are available.