Parenting a Child with Special Needs


This topical guide will introduce you to important books, videos, and information resources available from the EI Clearinghouse and other sources.

Contact us via online form or by phone (1-877-275-3227) to request a resource listed below (or ask your local public librarian). Note that some videos may be viewed online, and journal titles will take you to the publisher’s homepage.

mom with unhappy child


The Common Sense Guide to Your Child’s Special Needs : When to Worry, When to Wait, What to Do
Louis Pellegrino, Mark Batshaw  
Brookes Publishing, 2012 
Now streamlined and reorganized by key developmental milestones rather than by disability, this book responds perfectly to the needs of parents who don’t have a diagnosis yet or want to explore challenges common across disabilities.  
Call#: LC 3969 .P45 2012
Also available as an eBook.

A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs: Stories That Celebrate the Differences in Our Extraordinary Kids
Colleen Sell (Ed.)
Adams Media, 2009
This touching and heartfelt book is a collection of 50 stories of parents who have gone from struggling with their child’s diagnosis to embracing their child’s differences and small achievements.
Call#: WS 105.5 .F2 C974 2009

A Different Kind of Perfect: Writings by Parents Raising a Child with Special Needs
Cindy Dowling, et al. (eds.)
Trumpeter, 2006
An honest book of many different voices collected together and grouped into chapters reflecting the progressive stages of many parents’ emotional journeys, starting with grief, denial and anger and moving to acceptance, empowerment, laughter and joy.
Call#: WS 107.5 .R5 D569 2006

The Everything Parent’s guide to Special Education: A complete Step by Step Guide to Advocating for your child with Special needs
Amanda Morin
Adams Media, 2014
Children with special needs who succeed in school have one thing in common– their parents are passionate and effective advocates. Morin helps you learn how to evaluate, prepare, organize, and get quality services, no matter what your child’s disability.
Call#: LC 3981 .M8253 2014
Also available as an eBook

Not What I Expected: Help and Hope for Parents of Atypical Children
Rita Eichenstein
Perigree, 2015
A pediatric neuropsychologist presents strategies to help parents of children with special needs navigate the emotional challenges they face.  Dr. Eichenstein shares her practical solutions to walk the five stages of acceptance so that readers can embrace their child with acceptance, compassion and joy.
Call#: WS 107.5 .R5 Ei23n 2015

Optimistic Parenting: Hope and Help for You and Your Challenging Child
Vincent Mark Durand
Brookes Publishing, 2011
Optimistic Parenting is a guidebook for parents and caregivers to help reduce children’s challenging behaviors, with a variety of practical tools and strategies on effective behavior management
Call#: WS 350.6 .D948 2011

Supportive Parenting: Becoming an Advocate for your Child with Special Needs
Jan Starr Campito
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2007
Developmental psychologist and educator Campito draws on her own experiences as a parent to personalize the experience of becoming an advocate for one’s child. She explains how parents can work with communities of care to meet their child’s needs.
Call#: WS 107.5 R5 C196 2007

Team Up For Your Child: A Step-by-Step Guide to Working Smarter with Doctors, Schools Insurers and Agencies
Wendy Besmann
Melton Hill Media, 2008
This book helps parents and other caregivers steer a course to finding help and support. Easy to use, this workbook takes you step by step through the process of getting mental health, education, and other services for your child.
Call#: WS 107.5 .R5 B555 2008


A Place of Our Own. Early Childhood Solutions: Special Needs
97 min; DVD
PBS Home Video, 2008
This video provides parents and child care providers with information to help young children develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills in preparation for entering kindergarten.
Call#: LB 1132 .P53 2008

New I.D.E.A. for Special Education: Understanding the System and the New Law: A Guide for Parents, a Tool for Educators
50-min; DVD
Edvantage Media, 2005
This video explains to parents all about the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (I.D.E.A.), the law governing special education. It covers the referral and evaluation processes as well as the creation of an individualized education program (IEP)
Call#: LB 4031 .N532dvd 2005


Family Matters Parent Training & Information Center
One of Illinois’ two Parent Training Information centers supported in part by federal funds.  Serving as a parent training and information center for Illinois residents outside of Chicago, this organization seeks to empower parents to achieve the strongest possible outcomes for children with special needs through a toll-free help line, information services, and training opportunities. Parents can subscribe to a quarterly newsletter via the Web site, register for training events, and access other resources.

Family Resource Center on Disabilities (FRCD)
One of Illinois’ two Parent Training Information centers supported in part by federal funds.  Created by parents, professionals, and volunteers, FRCD seeks to improve services for all children with disabilities through parent training, special education rights seminars, and information assistance and support through telephone and mail requests. They also maintain an extensive list of Parent Support Groups.

Family Voices
A national family-led organization of families and friends of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities.  We connect a network of family organizations across the United States that provide support to families of children and youth with special health care needs.  We promote partnership with families at all levels of health care–individual and policy decision-making levels—in order to improve health care services and policies for children.

Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN)
Informing, educating, empowering families. FCSN provides information, support, and assistance to parents of children with disabilities, their professional partners, and their communities. We are committed to listening to and learning from families, and encouraging full participation in community life by all people, especially those with disabilities.

Friendship Circle International
With over 80 locations worldwide, the Friendship Circle is a Jewish organization for children with special needs.  The Friendship Circle’s unique approach brings together teenage volunteers and children with special needs for hours of fun and friendship. The parents and siblings receive much-needed respite and support from the Friendship Circle community. Each independent Friendship Circle is operated by its local Chabad Lubavitch Center, and is entirely supported by each local community to benefit local children with special needs.

Illinois Assistive Technology Program (IATP)
IATP’s mission is to increase access to and the acquisition of Assistive Technology (AT) devices and services for individuals of all ages with disabilities.

Provides programs for children and adults with intellectual challenges in the Chicago area and offers international consulting work, Keshet is an internationally recognized program for individuals with disabilities.  With local programming at over seventy sites in the Chicago area, the organization strives to meet its most important mission: To do whatever necessary to allow individuals with disabilities to achieve their potential.

Pacer Center
The PACER Center provides resources for parents and professionals. Many resources have been translated into Hmong, Somali and Spanish.

Special Needs Alliance
The Special Needs Alliance is a national organization comprised of attorneys committed to helping individuals with disabilities, their families and the professionals who serve them. Many of our members have loved ones with special needs; all of them work regularly with public benefits, guardianships/conservatorships, planning for disabilities and special education issues. They collaborate with advocates throughout the special needs community to improve quality of life for individuals with disabilities.

The Arc
The Arc is the largest national community-based organization advocating for and serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. We encompass all ages and more than 100 different diagnoses including autism, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, and various other developmental disabilities. The Arc promotes and protects the human rights of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and actively supports their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes.


Pediatrics, 128 (4), 795–802
Parent-Provider-Community Partnerships: Optimizing Outcomes for Children with Disabilities
Nancy A. Murphy and Paul S. Carbone. (2011)
The authors of this article explore the challenges of developing effective community-based systems of care for children with disabilities and make suggestions that pediatricians and policy-makers develop better partnerships with the families and other health care providers to best help the children.

Social Science and Medicine, 64 (1), 150–163
“We’re Tired, Not Sad”: Benefits and Burdens of Mothering a Child with a Disability
Sara Eleanor Green. (2006)
This study chooses to look at how mothers and caregivers of children with special needs really feel about their socially perceived burdens and the benefits of their caregiving role.

Web Resources

Answering Questions About Your Child’s Special Needs
This blog post, written by Dr. Susan Fowler, discusses how to talk about a child who has special needs with other parents or children. Also in Spanish.

Early Childhood Intervention: The Power of Family
A brief video with a variety of early childhood and early intervention experts from around the world discussing the importance of family in the early intervention process.

Assistive Technology at Home: Easy Adaptations for Daily Living (EIC)
A parent-friendly tip sheet created by the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse. Also in Spanish.

How I Communicate (EIC)
A parent-friendly tip sheet created by the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse. Also in Spanish.

How I Understand (EIC)
A parent-friendly tip sheet created by the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse. Also in Spanish.

Who Is on Your Early Intervention Team? (EIC)
A parent-friendly tip sheet created by the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse. Also in Spanish.

Answering Questions About Your Child’s Special Needs (EIC)
A parent-friendly tip sheet created by the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse. Also in Spanish.

Fuss Management: Comforting Your Child (EIC)
A parent-friendly tip sheet created by the Illinois Early Intervention Clearinghouse. Also in Spanish.

Games for All Young Children (IEL)
Games help make movement fun. Play and laughter can help develop friendship while encouraging physical fitness. Consider each child’s abilities, and encourage all children to play by adapting games for children with special needs. Also in Spanish and Polish.

How to Communicate Effectively with Early Childhood Professionals
This brief article provides suggestions on how parents can effectively help their child’s care team to better understand their child’s unique needs and priorities.

Parenting Special Needs Magazine
Parenting Special Needs is an online magazine that provides both information and inspiration to parents of children with special needs of all ages and stages of life

Where Can Parents Find Help for Young Children with Special Needs? (IEL)
Parents often have questions about sources of information and support. This Q&A addresses many of the questions that parents have asked the Illinois Early Learning project staff over the past few years and suggests resources that parents of young children may find useful. Also in Spanish.

Related Resource(s)