Gail Shak, Ph.D. - Licensed Psychologist, Burlingame, California
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Gail Shak, Ph.D.
405 Primrose Road
Suite 205
Burlingame, CA 94010
(650) 375-1588
License: PSY 10401


The Solutions You Need When Parenting a Child with Special Needs

Parents of children with special needs often find that, as partners in parenting, they have different coping mechanisms, different expectations of their child, or different ways of accepting their child's diagnosis.

Some feel frightened, frustrated, helpless, or hopeless; others feel guilt and sadness, depression, or inadequacy. There is help for those feelings, and it is possible to work through the emotions in order to channel them into the energy needed to parent effectively together, for both the parents' well being and the well being of the child.

I began my work with parents of young children in 1980 as the first psychologist on the team which created Parents Place, a resource center for parents of young children in San Francisco. It was there that I developed parent-child workshops and seminars on discipline and adoption. And, it was there that I came to realize just how many parents are raising children with special needs. I recognized that when a child has special needs, so do the parents.

I have since provided individual and couples counseling to many parents of children with special needs, including those of children with learning differences, mental health and behavioral issues, specific physical and developmental disabilities, and autism.

When a family is focused on the diagnosis and treatment of a child with special needs, it is not uncommon for the special needs of the entire family to go unrecognized. Frequently there is a great deal of emotional distress when a child is diagnosed and, like peeling the layers of an onion, parents face new challenges and strong emotions again and again at times of transition in the child's life. Oftentimes, the challenges of parenting a special needs child exacerbate persistent marital issues or pre-existing personality differences.

In my years of working with parents of special needs children, I have found that while the mother and father may have different approaches, they usually have the same dedication to, and goals for, their child — and they can be helped. Through individual and couples counseling, I can help you make sure your marriage, parenting skills, and relationship with your child not only survives but thrives.

If you're interested in finding out how parent counseling can help you and your relationship with your child, I encourage you to contact me with your questions or to schedule an appointment. I may be reached by phone at 650-375-1588, or by e-mail at

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