"Special needs" is an umbrella term used to describe individuals who need additional assistance because of a disability, whether physical, mental or psychological. An estimated 18.5 percent of children in the United States have special needs, many of which are caused by birth injuries, such as cerebral palsy.
Examples of special needs
Special needs can be the result of physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, behavioral disorders, psychological disorders, neurological disorders or cognitive disabilities. Here are a few common examples of special needs:
- Blindness or visual impairment
- Deafness or hearing impairment
- Muscle disorders, such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy
- Missing limbs
- Developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome
- Learning disabilities
- Behavioral disorder - disruptive behaviors which last at least 6 months
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) - well above normal levels of impulsive behavior and hyperactivity
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) - extreme and frequent outbursts in opposition to acceptable behavior
- Bipolar Disorder ("manic depression") - disorder characterized by extreme mood swings
- Social Anxiety Disorder - an extreme fear of being watched or judged
- Epilepsy - disorder characterized by frequent seizures
- Multiple Sclerosis - disease which causes damage to central nervous system and spinal cord
- Cognitive Disability - trouble with intellectual tasks due to brain functioning, including problem solving, reading comprehension, memory and ability to function on a single task
Determining whether a child has a special need can be difficult. Symptoms and warning signs might not be evident until several weeks, months or years after the birth of a child. Many disorders have similar or overlapping symptoms, which makes misdiagnosis a real possibility.
It's important for parents, caregivers and medical professionals to monitor newborn children to make sure they are achieving normal milestones for children their age. These milestones demonstrate a child's physical and mental abilities. Children who cannot achieve these milestones may have a disability.
Special needs are often the result of preventable causes
Many types of birth injuries can leave a child with special needs. Some of the most significant lifelong injuries involve brain damage. This can occur due to complications during pregnancy, lack of oxygen to the brain during labor and delivery, or a traumatic injury to the head that occurs during labor and delivery.
One of the most persistent myths about disabilities is that they "just happen." The truth is that many special needs are rooted in preventable causes, which can expose negligent medical professionals to malpractice lawsuits. Recovering compensation in such a lawsuit can provide funding for the child's life care plan and help to maximize their independence and quality of life.
If you believe your child's special need was caused by negligence, or if you need help to find out what happened, we can help you schedule a free consultation with a birth injury attorney in your state. Your attorney can review the merits of a potential case and help determine whether you have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.