Strategies for Parenting Kids with Special Needs

July 5, 2011

Review of new five-CD set by parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton

By: Carissa Garabedian
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I was fortunate to review Bringing Out the Best in Children and Teens with Special Needs, a five-CD set in which parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton details strategies for applying her core principles, many of which we’ve covered before, to bring out the best in kids with special needs.  Topics include:

  • Behavior, cooperation and impulse control;
  • Concentration, memory, organization, coordination and learning;
  • Social skills and teamwork;
  • Confidence, self-reliance and self-esteem;
  • Transitions: moving smoothly and easily from one activity to the next; and
  • The ability to handle frustration and disappointment more constructively.

Our son is 8 years old and on the Autistic Spectrum.  Both my husband (who is a pediatrician) and I found the tools valuable for all of our kids, not just our son.  We plan to revisit the CDs frequently, as we can continue to get something new out of them.
There were so many moments during this CD that I felt as though Ms. Norton was talking to us and knew our son personally. I am certain that many families will feel the same way and one of the most valuable messages from this series was the reminder that we are not alone in this. There are other parents who struggle daily with a child who sees and interprets the world differently. I was reminded that we can share and find strength in our common experiences.
Ms. Janis-Norton reminds everyone at the outset that raising a child with Special Needs can place a strain on the entire family. There’s tension, stress and accepting the fact that other siblings in the family will feel left out. Parenting is the most demanding job we will ever have and raising a child with Special Needs adds an entirely new set of demands.  But along with those challenges often comes opportunities and Ms. Janis-Norton beings by recognizing that kids with special needs often have special strengths.  Many children with Special Needs are:

  • highly intelligent
  • creative
  • inventive
  • adventurous
  • able to inject excitement into mundane matter
  • visual learners

How do we harness these talents to help our children thrive?  These CDs offer several techniques.
The Value of Descriptive Praise:
Although descriptive praise is a valuable technique for all kids, it can be an especially powerful motivator for kids with special needs.  When used consistently, descriptive praise encourages kids to meet your expectations and feel proud when they do so.  An example is to avoid simply saying “good job” or “awesome” as these reinforcements are too vague.  When we are more specific with our praise, kids comprehend more easily what they’ve done right. Describe what exactly was done correctly and how it made you proud.  Kids will want to repeat the behavior and the feeling of pride. 
The Importance of a Schedule:
A child with special needs benefits greatly from a regular schedule and routine.  It is often difficult for these kids to adjust to change or to “go with the flow.”  Always endeavor to give your child an idea of what is being planned and enough time to prepare. Be realistic with what you have planned and be sure it will be something that your child will be able to handle – sometimes this means saying no, when you really want to say yes.
Be Sure the Basics are in Place:
There are 4 factors we need to be sure of in our daily habits and as important in our child's habits:

  • sleep;
  • nutrition;
  • exercise; and
  • daily screen time (computer and TV).

These four fundamentals must be defined and met.  We find that we are nicer to one another, more focused and able to complete the day, if these factors are taken care of.  Indeed, many problems may go away once these basics are in place.  You may also find that impulsivity and restlessness are reduced, concentration is strengthened, organization increases, and short and long term memory may even improve.
Improve Organization and Encourage Self Reliance:
Ms. Janis-Norton talks about how to improve organization and self-reliance in our Special Needs children.  She reminds us that the brain is malleable; we can learn the skills we need to teach and support our children, even though it may be far more difficult than raising typically-developing children.
Begin teaching new tasks and skills with the easiest parts. Once mastered, move to the next step. It is very common for parents to overcompensate for our special needs children by doing things they can do for themselves. We tend to do this for many reasons; as parents we take on guilt.
When we do things for our children that they themselves can do, we rob them of a chance to feel competent. We need to allow them to do these things so they can feel good about themselves and realize their own capabilities. We feel confident when we are competent. This confidence will further learning, as it will enable children to continue to confront new challenges. The same is true for our children.
While we want to do everything to help our children, we need to find time for ourselves, our partners, and our other kids as well.  Ms. Norton strongly suggests trying to find a little time every day to spend with each of your children alone. This special time with each child will decrease sibling rivalry, which allows you to focus on the child you are with. For the Special Needs Child this allows focus and concentration to be enhanced.
Present a United Front:
Courage, perseverance, and consistency are key factors in parenting.  Maintaining a strong, solid team-work approach with your partner, being united, following though and having one voice will help immensely.
Remember, raising children, especially those with special needs, requires a clear vision, a consistent plan and a lot of flexibility.
Notes from a Teacher
I shared these CDs with our son’s teacher. She is an incredible support for us and we thought she would also benefit from some of the tools taught here.  She was excited to share her thoughts as well:
“I am happy to have been able to listen to the CD Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting. As an educator, I was happy to hear that teamwork was important in having a child with special needs feel successful. Every child needs support at home, support at school and support from the community to be successful. Communication between all of these areas will help children accomplish success. This CD gave some great tips on how to do this. It provides tips on how to break things down into small steps, and teach things with patience. People who work with children with special needs should practice patience because training is not an overnight project, and that’s OK. With many children with special needs becoming full time members of the regular education classes, I like how the CD encouraged training, routine and acceptance from both parents and teachers. The CD speaks of both the challenge and the rewards of having children with special needs in the home and in the classroom. This CD provides tips and advice for making your child feel success both at home and at school.”   Ms Courtney Tooley, Educator, 2nd Grade Henrico Va.

Have your say


1) Jennifer said:
Great information!!! I'm a mother to a special needs child and I can attest to the difficulties in teaching him, and the strain it places on other children in the household. These techniques are very insightful!
5 years, 5 months ago
2) Mary said:
What a wonderful review of a truly great CD series. As a licensed family childcare provider, I have found Noel Janis-Norton's strategies helpful with all the children in my care, whether typically developing or with special needs. I think as the reviewer stated that parents will find a great deal of comfort in having strategies that really work, especially with the most challenging children. I hope more childcare professionals will learn about these techniques so that they can have a calmer, easier, happier teaching experience, as I have.
5 years, 5 months ago
3) Robyn said:
What an excellent review. I am a longtime 'student' of Noel Janis-Norton, and her strategies are truly transformational. As a mother of an 8 year-old son with autism, and a kindergarten teacher, I use these methods daily - but they take as much consistency and practice for me as a parent, as they do for our kids. Thank you, Carissa - your review was a timely reminder about developing self reliance. I have consciously cut back on the dreaded over-scheduling. My son is capable of doing so much for himself, but he needs more time than most typical kids. If I am rushing him, that's my fault, not his. That's the best thing about having Noel on a CD - whenever you need a refresher course, you have it right there at your fingertips. Guess what I'll be listening to in my car today?
5 years, 5 months ago
4) Mary said:
I just listened to #5 CD again and wanted to point out that these personal stories from parents in the trenches are so helpful. What a great reminder that the "magic" takes practice but that it really isn't magic at all - these techniques WORK, even for the most challenging children. And how helpful to know that when two parents are "in this together," their marriage will be strengthened, no matter how stressful their children are. What a bonus! Thanks, Noel.
5 years, 5 months ago
5) Amanda Deverich said:
I attended a special needs seminar offered by Noel Janis-Norton in Los Angeles in March of this year. As a counselor and marriage & family therapist, I found her insight and practical skills to be right on target. I share these CDs with parents I see who are yearning for understanding and real support with strategies that work. –Amanda Deverich, Williamsburg Counseling, Williamsburg, VA
5 years, 5 months ago
6) Suzanne Ferera said:
As an Occupational Therapist and a Calmer, Easier,Happier(CEH)Parenting Practitioner. I see many families with children with special needs.The CD's have been an invaluable resource and support for these families and myself. One of the benefits these families talk about is their increased understanding of the impulsive behaviour of their children, and how to manage this more effectively using the CEH skills. Suzanne Ferera, Vancouver, BC
5 years, 5 months ago
7) Linda Sue said:
Four months ago, when my 5-year-old grandson’s behavior spiraled out of control, we started using Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting as a last resort, because nothing else was working to help him. Using these gentle and effective skills helped him to become more manageable within just a couple of weeks. The Special Needs set of CD’s has helped us understand what triggers impulsiveness and extreme behaviors. Now, with this program, we have effective tools to avoid those behaviors most of the time, and to gently help him when they do occur. These skills work, and this program is a gift in our lives every day.
5 years, 5 months ago
8) said:
I just saw these comments, I am so happy so many found it helpful!
5 years, 4 months ago

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