When a child is NOT developing according to the stages commonly understood as appropriate for their age...parents immediately worry/panic that 'something is wrong'. Often these fears are fuelled by well-meaning family and friends. In many cases the child is developing more rapidly in other areas, and things begin to balance out. For some things don't: in such instances, parental reactions to the birth (or later identification) of a child with a disability can be very traumatic.
I worked as a learning mentor in a special needs school for several years. Sometimes these parents were also still struggling to come to terms with their child's disabilit/ies; hoping that the worrisome behaviour was a stage, part of temperament and could be outgrown. Self-esteem and image, parental expectations, and dreams are threatened when a child has a disability. Pain and disappointment especially at the very first phase when parents have a beginning awareness of the possibility of disability, may precipitate a crisis. There is an internal and natural resistance to the unwelcome change of status.
Understandably, families do not move with tranquillity from one which includes well children to one which includes a child with a disability. Confirmation of a disability has a significant impact on the family and requires adaptive change for ALL its members. Therefore reacting to the “real” can be problematic. Relating to the child or their 'needs' from a ‘something wrong' attitude can only prolong the pain and struggle emotionally and at practical levels. Early acceptance that your child is developing DIFFERENTLY opens the door to early help and support for parent/s and the child. Although this process can be slow and difficult for families: many organisations are available to advise, advocate and support families through.
Research on the brain has produced impressive evidence that supports the value of an early start. Particularly for children with disabilities from birth to age six: children’s brains are especially responsive to experiential influence. Consequently, there is a pressing need to acknowledge the problem to begin to assess a child and help them benefit from a “window of opportunity” that early intervention may provide.
The “heart of the process for enabling and empowering families is the relationship established between the help seeker and help giver.”
The documented effectiveness of early identification and intervention are compelling reasons to inform and empower parents to act on their behalf. Establishing alliances between parents and ‘help giver’ is key. However, the education and training of child-care staff and educators is varied. Staff need to approach families with sensitivity to their individual characteristics as well as their culture and priorities as the best way to begin the work of establishing the trust that is necessary for collaboration and progress.
Below is a collage of some (of the many) accomplished personalities who have refused to be defined by their disabilities and did not allow the challenges they faced to determine their futures.
Photo attributions:bollywoodhungama.com: D@LY3D; Salty1412; NASA and Google Art. Licenses inc: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/ andhttp://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en
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