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How to Cope as a Single Parent of a Child with Special Needs

Parenting by yourself is difficult enough, and when your child has special needs, including autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, you are challenged even further. The struggles seem to double, and if you don’t have support from the other parent, you’re on your own to manage the care of your child all alone.

It’s a tremendous responsibility, and even though you want to do your best, as a single parent, you face circumstances that can cause you to suffer exhaustion at a faster pace than families with shared responsibility. And even though some days seem impossible to get through, there are ways that you can maintain a great life for your child and yourself.

  • If you need assistance with money, housing, food, healthcare, or childcare, contact your local regional center or social service agency. Sometimes things are tough when there is only one income in the household, and you may struggle to meet all of your needs. There are many programs that help parents of children with disabilities supplement their income.
  • Create a schedule and work on being consistent. A schedule can help reduce many emotions that cause stress. If your child knows what to expect, she will probably have fewer meltdowns, leaving you more time to handle other things, while keeping the calm.
  • Network with other single parents who have kids with special needs. Talking with other moms and dads who know what you are going through can help you feel more positive about your own situation. To find these groups, you can search within your preferred social media outlet.
  • Give yourself permission to accept help from family, friends and neighbors. Many parents feel the need to take care of everything by themselves, and that can lead to serious stress, anxiety and fatigue. If you have offers from friends or family to help, let them.
  • Take some time for yourself. As a single parent, this is the most important thing, but it may also seem like the most impossible. Try to give yourself some time to do something just for you, even if it’s just an hour after you have put your child to bed at night.

Finding support and figuring out ways to cope are important for both you and your child. Discover what works for you, and remember to get help when you need it. You are not alone—there are many parents of children with special needs who are dealing with these same issues every day.
If you feel overwhelmed and you need help, please contact us.
American Advocacy group is on the front lines every day, making positive change happen for people diagnosed with Autism, Down syndrome and a range of diagnoses across the continuum. As a leading advocate for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families, and the premier provider of the support and services people want and need, we understand the system and know how to take action in regard to your best interests.
Dial (877) 762-0702 or email us at

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