Becoming a parent needs some planning and preparation—mentally, socially and financially. Depending on various circumstances, parents may not be completely prepared when they have children. Still, having a child with severe disabilities could be shocking for some parents. In such cases, the child will need special care and attention from the parents, as well as from medical practitioners such as doctors and therapists. Parents need to be aware of the condition of the child and look for various ways to help the child become healthy and well.
As the child grows up, the nature of stress and difficulties faced by the parents will also change. In addition to the physical needs of the child that the parents must look out for, they will also need to face several psychosocial struggles. According to Hastings and Beck (2004), parents of children with special needs, especially those relating to intellectual disabilities are subjected to stress and mental health-related problems because they need to adapt to social situations. They may experience different emotions depending on the behavior of their child, which they may or may not have control over.
Feelings of embarrassment, annoyance and social discomfiture may be felt by the parents in various social settings. 1. Psychosocial Difficulties of Parents of Children with Severe Disabilities Raising a child requires significant investment in time, money and, more importantly, love, tenderness and caring! For a child with severe disabilities, parents may feel overwhelmed with the responsibility they have to bear. Oftentimes, people in the society may view children with disabilities unfairly and may unknowingly look with pity at the children’s parents.
Among the psychosocial difficulties of parents are anxiety, depression and anger among others. Some parents find it really difficult to accept that their child has severe disabilities. This denial, then, would backfire and manifest in many ways. In a sense, denial is an escape from responsibility. Parents feel hopeless and unwilling to reconcile what went wrong with the pregnancy or with the disabilities of young children (Lavin, 2001). Anxiety and guilt can also be manifested by parents of children with disabilities.
They may blame themselves for what happened and for not loving their children more. They may become conflicted internally—they hover between hating the responsibility thrust on them by their child’s disabilities and at the same feeling guilty that they feel that way. At some point, they may even get angry at the child at the world or at themselves for their child’s situation. Depression may also occur, depending on the gravity of the situation, the social connections of the parents and their ability to cope with the situation.
When they are in social situations such as at the mall or in public places, the disabilities of the child may be highlighted and they may feel “special” as well. If parents are not able to accept the situation of their child and deal with it, they may find it difficult to adjust normally and raise their child well (Olsen & Fuller, 2003). 2. Perception of the Child, the Parents and the Specialists Perceptions and mindsets are powerful. The way that parents view their child with special needs will affect how they treat such a child.
While the broader society expects parents to love their children unconditionally, this may be more difficult for some parents. There are parents who may view a child with special needs as a nuisance and an unwanted burden and responsibility. Naturally, such an attitude and perception will resonate in the way that they treat the child. Trained medical practitioners and therapists are able to look at a child with special needs objectively and deliver all the necessary care the child needs. Such caring, however, were arrived at through years of training.
This is the reason why parents of children with disabilities sometimes need to go to counseling so as to adjust their perceptions and their view of the situation. The perception of parents are also important for practitioners, special education teachers and other professionals to work with the parents in providing the necessary care and services for the growth and development of the child with disabilities (Bruns & Mogharreban, 2008). If parents and practitioners have the same perception of the child, then it becomes easier for them to work together.
As the child grows and interacts with more people in his immediate surroundings and in the broader community where he or she belongs to, collaboration between the parents and the professionals that deliver services for children with special needs becomes even more important. 3. Recommendations for Early Child Intervention Early intervention for children with special needs is necessary so that they, too, could enjoy a normal life. Not because they have disabilities means that they could not contribute meaningfully to the society. In fact, there have been great artists and craftsmen who managed to excel in what they do even with disabilities.
Diagnose early. Early diagnosis of the child’s actual situation is very much needed. While a couple may have trouble accepting the reality of their child’s situation, knowing exactly what their child faces will help them get prepared and able to cope with the situation. Consequently, parents should enhance their attitude and perceptions toward the child. If needed, they should seek counseling so that they could better sort through their emotions and deal with any denial, guilt or anxiety they may be feeling. Following such counseling, the parents need to learn how to teach the right behavior to their child.
Special education teachers may be able to bring out the best out of children with special needs. Yet, the role of the home and of the parents is still very important in the life of a child with special needs. It is inside the home where behavior is first mimicked, learned and reinforced. Without such learning inside the home, the child will find it difficult to adapt to his world and to the different kinds of people around him. Seeking out schools for children with special needs will also be a good move for the family so as to regulate the child’s behavior early on.
4. How I relate with a child with special needs. It is difficult to imagine myself in the shoes of a child with severe disabilities. But I am sure that I would still have curiosity because of what I see, hear, touch, smell and taste. I would be able to use all of these senses with verifying efficacy. While I may be limited by certain disabilities, that will not take away my senses. As such, I will still manage to use my curiosity to explore my world. As a child, I have felt the warmth of love and care from my parents and from the people that I am close to.
Although the parents of a child with disabilities may find the situation of their child difficult, most of the time, they still want the best for their child. If I were growing up as a child with special needs, I would also learn that I have a sense of limitation. Everyone has different kinds of limitations in their lives. The limitations, however, are greater for children with disabilities. I would not help but compare myself with other children since that is a natural part of growing up. That might also be a source of frustration for a child with disabilities.
As I put myself in the shoes of a child with disabilities, I could not help but appreciate what I have now. This is not to say that I pity those children with special needs. But it can be difficult—for the child and for the parents. This is why intervention is much needed at an early age when the child’s body and consciousness can be molded rather easily. Any child—with or without disabilities—will always appreciate sincere love and affection, first from parents and then from people around him. Hence, in providing care for them, there should always be a tinge of love and tenderness.
Bruns, D. A. & Mogharreban, C. C. (2008). Working With Young Children With Disabilities: Perceptions, Skills, and Training Needs of Head Start Teachers. NHSA Dialog, 11 (1): 54-66. Hastings, R. P. & Beck, A. (2004). Stress Intervention for Parents of Children with Intellectual Disabilities. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 45 (8): 1338-1349. Lavin, J. L. (2001). Special Kids Need Special Parents. New York: The Berkley Publishing Group. Olsen, G. & Fuller, M. L. (2003). Home-School Relations: Working Successfully with Parents and Families. New York: Pearson Education, Inc.