Ask Vicki: Duct Tape Parenting a Child with Special Needs

Ask Vicki: Duct Tape Parenting a Child with Special Needs


Hi Vicki –

I’ve been reading Duct Tape Parenting and am wondering, have you worked with any families with children with special needs? My daughter has Down Syndrome. We have the same expectations of her at home as we do of her siblings. Are there any special considerations when applying Duct Tape to her?

Thank you!


Vicki’s Answer

Dear Kelly,

Although I don’t work specifically with parents who are raising a child with a particular special need, in your case Down Syndrome, my husband is a special educator at the high school level and we talk daily about how this approach to parenting impacts his students, what works and what doesn’t, and what kinds of modifications he makes to accommodate a particular student.

This less-is-more approach to parenting is based on concepts that support the relationship we have with our children and their ability to become independent, self-reliant, engaged people. The concepts apply to anyone we are in relationship with.  The techniques and strategies provide a structure that can be modified to accommodate any child at different stages of development or with special needs.

Every child is unique and as parents it is our job to modify the techniques and strategies we use, the expectations we have of the child, the time we allow a child to create a healthy habit, and master a task or learn how to deal with frustration and disappointment.  For instance, one child might find it easy to get up in the morning and get dressed, and so on.  It might take longer for your child to master her morning routine.  It might require a technique that helps her to keep track of the tasks and whether they have been completed, but as you say keep the expectations the same.  It might require more support and encouragement.  It might require letting her deal with a bit of frustration, but perhaps not as much as another child might be allowed to experience.  Another example might be around hygiene and manners.  These are areas that might need additional training.  It might even require more “reminding” until a habit of daily hygiene and manners is solidified, and again working toward the same goal.

It is important that we look at each child as a unique human being who is driven to feel a sense of belonging and significance in the family and to master her environment.  Anything we can do as parents to assist and support our children in this endeavor will go a long way to helping them create a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Please let me know if you have any more questions.