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How Parents Cope With Having Children With Disabilities

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No parent expects to have a child with a disability. Parents nearly always act strongly to the birth of a disabled child. It is important to consider their responses, because they happen to every parent, regardless of their educational, social or socioeconomic background. ÐŽ§Most parents who must cope with a child of a disability face the major crisis of ÐŽ§symbolic deathЎЁ of the child who was to be. When their child is first diagnosed as having a serious disability, most parents feel shock, and then denial, guilt, anger and sadness before they finally adjustЎЁ (Peterson, 1987).

When a parent receives a diagnosis of a disability it can be extremely devastating. For some parents, it may also be a relief, having a label for the symptoms of their child. The specific diagnosis is important for parents because it can open up doors for services. A diagnosis of autism, for example, can be upsetting but it is very important to state that autistic children have much room to grow and improve. Autism is treatable and the earlier these children receive the treatment that they need, the better their prognosis. They may progress slower than others but can still live productive and happy lives.

On the other hand, a child who has cerebral palsy or is emotionally disturbed is a more difficult crisis to handle. These children are often hard to dress, feed and care for. They require constant care and the responsibilities which weigh down families. The parents must come to the realization that their child may not go through normal developmental process or may never become an independent adult.

The responsibilities of a two-parent working family are tough enough without adding the

special condition of having a child with a disability. LetÐŽ¦s say, for instance, there is a family with two children, one with cerebral palsy and one normal functioning child. A two-parent household has to most likely wake up, bathe both children, prepare breakfast, drop off children at school (one of which might be a developmental day care for the disabled child), and shower themselves. This routine would probably repeat in the afternoon and at night when there is dinner to be prepared and night time stories to read. It is only normal by the end of the day for the parents to be exhausted. Imagine this type of routine with only one parent present to do all the everyday jobs necessary. How much more tired would that one parent be at the end of the day. What if there was not some mutual agreement between the two parents on who was supposed to take care of each responsibility, or there were personal tensions between the parents because they disagree on how to discipline the disabled child?

In many families, the parents own personal needs come second to the requirements of the children. It is very important to have the children have positive thoughts in their head. It is hard to cope with exceptional children, especially during their childÐŽ¦s early years, and all family members need understanding and support from time to time.

When you talk about basic family responsibilities, it is also important to realize the huge diversity of families. There are so many, a large number of single parent families. Many single mothers live in poverty and their children are a lot less likely to receive good prenatal and post birth care, which may also increase the chances of the child having physical, emotional and academic problems. A single parent may need to seek public assistance to survive economically and provide the therapy and the education the child requires. ÐŽ§ Even in two-parent families that have a child with disabilities, fathers generally do not come to the aid of the mothers by increasing their presence, helping around the house, or taking care of the childЎЁ(Gallager, Bristol & Schopler 1998). The father of the family may get a second job to pay for expenses which means he will not be home as much. The mother accepts this, because it is loving thing to do. Some mothers may think that this is an out, a way of the father escaping responsibility.

ÐŽ§The perception that each partner is taking responsibility for the family in an acceptable way determines family harmonyЎЁ(Bristol, Gallager & Schopler 1998). It is very important that the mother and father come to terms about the roles and responsibility of each.

Finding a baby sitter for simple leisure activities or time alone for the parents is usually a big problem. A child with physical and sensory disabilities may need feeding or other assistance beyond what a baby sitter is willing to give. Parents who seek relief care may need the services of a trained specialist for their child with behavior disorders or sensory impairments, which can also be hard to find and pay for.

Children with health impairments may also shorter lives. This is also very difficult for parents. Having a child pass away is extremely devastating. Also, childrenÐŽ¦s concept of death is probably slow, and they need support to be able to deal with death. As a child with a terminal illness or progressive condition approaches where it becomes that he will definitely pass away, he or she may face great fear and grief, as may parents, siblings and classmates. Parents need to be prepared for lifelong issues that they and their child may face.

Parents also often worry about the effect that their child has on siblings. Other siblings may grow to be resentful of the disabled child because the parents may need to spend more time with them. The other siblings may turn their back on the affected sibling when he or she gets older and the parents can no longer take care of them. A lot of assumptions are made about families with a disabled child. People assume that the non disabled sibling is inevitably neglected because parents must pay much more attention to the child with the disabilities, and the result would be resentfulness.

ÐŽ§Siblings of the child with a disability spend at least the same amount of time with their mothers and receive the same type of discipline as their brother or sister with disabilities receives, although they do perform a greater amount of household tasks,ЎЁ(Harris and McHale 1989). They go on to point out that the sibling who appears most vulnerable for special adjustment problems seems to be the older sibling to whom the parents have given special child care responsibilities.

Children probably ask themselves questions about their lives and their disabled sibling. They wonder why they act



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