Parent Perspectives: Caring for Children with Disabilities

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Every situation is unique. Every child and family is different. Here are three trends that are consistent among families of disabled individuals.

Emotions Following the Diagnosis

Some parents describe feelings of shock after hearing the diagnosis of a disabled child. Of course you are going to feel surprised, sad, and even angry. Parents have dreams and aspirations for each of their children. These feelings are normal, in fact they are similar to the grieving process. Be patient with yourself and your family members. Bill Healy says that these parents should be encouraged to ask questions and express their emotions. The six stages of adjustment may include: shock, attempt to change reality, anger, depression, acceptance, and planning for an enjoyable future.

“When I found out that Sam was going to be disabled at birth, I felt shock and sadness. But, then I thought, ‘These are the cards we have been dealt. This spirit will need assistance throughout life and we will be the ones to give it to him. I will be at the top of my game.’ Now, 20 years later, I am so glad Sam is in our home!”

– Anonymous

Finding the Right School and Programs

The parent is the most important advocate for a child. Educators come in a close second. Educational resources for disabled children are different depending on where you live and the type and scale of the child’s disability. When you feel ready, ask professionals and parents of children with similar disabilities what they recommend. There are also many government agencies that your child may qualify for, including the Division of Developmental Disabilities, which is different for every state.

“I was hesitant to tell people about Trey’s autism at first because I didn’t want him to be labeled. But, when I was ready to open up and started talking to people, I learned about the autism clinic that has been a best for Trey. We appreciate the private school’s one adult to one student policy, which is what Trey needed. We also benefitted from the state’s Early Intervention Program that brought trustworthy speech professionals into our home before Trey attended school.”

– Anonymous

Support from Family

The road of caring for a disabled child is bumpy and long. Some parents of disabled children say they rely on their spouse and God more than support groups. Of course, those you are closest to have the potential for understanding you and your child most accurately. They are also able to physically help in ways that you may not be able to. Patricia McGill Smith says that there are many support groups out there. “The more couples can communicate at difficult times like these, the greater their collective strength” (

“While you live with and care for your disabled child there are a lot of emotions. Every day is different. My husband and I have found our roles. Somethings I am better at and somethings he is better at. For example, I get nervous that Trey will run and get lost in public, but Jim can relax and enjoy scootering in the neighborhood or playing at the park with Trey. I don’t know what I would do without my patient husband.”

– Anonymous

Online Resources for Families of Disabled Individuals (Just A Few)