Living With Disabilities
Training children presents daily challenges to parents. In families where a disability occurs, the number of challenges grows exponentially. Unfortunately, in responding to the challenges parents often feel that there are few resources available to them. There are often barriers of physical or emotional origins that hinder access to resources.
Some of the more common challenges faced by Parents of children with disabilities include:
Silence: It is not uncommon for parents dealing with disabilities among family members to keep quiet in social settings. The silence helps protect them from pain and being vulnerable. Those around them may interpret the silence as an indication that “all is well”. Such false assumptions by others often add to feelings of isolation already experienced by the parents.
Sometimes the parents are so busy or worn out, they don’t have much to say in social settings. The care requirements of some disabilities requires full-time attention. These care requirements rarely include breaks. Often extended family and friends are too intimidated or unwilling to help parents with child care. Such burdens often leave the parents feeling alone, with support groups and the medical community being the main people they interact with. Often they even experience difficulties fitting in at their churches as well.
Anger: With any disability, whether originating from genetic or accidental origins, families experience grief related to their losses. As part of the grief reaction, family members commonly experience an unfocused anger. This unfocused anger may show up in parents being easily upset, irritable, and having a low frustration tolerance. Coming to terms with the anger along with rejection and social isolation are some of the many challenges parents face. Finding appropriate ways to deal with the anger and frustration is key to moving past the grief reactions for the child and parent. Misdirected anger can lead to over attention on clothing, attempts to hide disabilities, and inappropriate ways of dealing with attention. Family members can have more difficulty dealing with the disability than the person who has the disability.
Acceptance: When parents view the disability as something that is acceptable rather than a source of shame or something to be overcome, positive progress occurs. This progress involves removing the labels associated with shame, failure and inferiority. Sometimes acceptance requires working through assumptions that the disability is related to punishment from past deeds. Parents at times blame themselves or their spouse for the disability. Siblings have also been known to experience struggles with guilt for not having a disability. Reading biographies of those who accepted their disabilities (e.g. Joni Erikson, Helen Keller, Fanny Crosby, Ludwig von Beethoven, and John Newton) can help give hope to the disabled and their families.
Once the family accepts the disability, parents then deal with the challenge of learning a new way of living for their family and raising their children.