|Posted on November 30, 2016 at 12:35 AM|
Finding out that your child has a disability is life-changing. If you have never worked with or cared for an individual with a disability, you may be flooded with questions and concerns. As a sibling of an awesome individual with Autism and a teacher and counselor of individuals with disabilities, I have picked up a few tips for coping with the diagnosis of a disability.
1. Do not blame yourselfAs a parent, you feel totally responsible for everything that happens to your child.Accepting responsibility for the presence of a disability is too heavy of a burden to carry.Quite frequently, practitioners are unaware of what influences the presence of certain disabilities and there is a likelihood thatit may not be directly linked to any actions of the parent at all.
2. Seek guidanceGuidance may come from spiritual resources, such as church or religious groups.Now is the time to speak freely with your pastor, a minister, and/or individuals in your church who are willing to join you andyour family (spiritually) in your journey and to join your family in prayers for guidance. Guidance may also come from a therapist.Family therapists with rehabilitation counseling backgrounds or who are trained to work with individuals with special needs and theirfamilies can serve as an asset to your family. In addition, parents may want to seek individual counseling sessions and couple's therapy,and children may want to seek out indivudal counseling services or sessions together without parents.If financial limitations are an issue, find out if your employer offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
3. Channel your support systemFamily members and friends are so essential in this moment. Try not to let guilt and shame prevent you from talking aboutyour child's exceptionality. These people will serve as partners in your journey as a parent of a child with a disability.Trying to hide it only feeds the perspective that the presence of a disability is negative.Not many parents plan to have a child with a disability; however, once a child is diagnosed with a disability it is so importantthat parents take on a positive perspective--even regarding things that are seen as negative to others.Sure your teen with autism may not have a large social circle, which means that they spend a lot of time at home; however,this also means that you have the opportunity to have a large part in their growth and progress.:)
4. Develop a family narrative
This can be established during family therapy or through conversations at home. Siblings may be extremely confused about what it
means to have a disability, characteristics of a particular disability, and how they can establish a relationship with their sibling
despite the presence of a disability. Parents should work to develop an understanding of their child's disability.
Then, based on age and ablity to understand, parents should provide clarifying information to children about the disability
(if it is helpful). More importantly, parents should help children understand how to interact with their sibling. Parents should provide
children-- some children are bullied because of their siblings disability--with a platform to discuss concerns and questions (
when parents are emotionally prepared). Please DO NOT EVER blame siblings for the presence of a disability!
5. Seek local and national resources
Feel free to talk to your child's special education teacher. Meetings can happen at any time during the school year, not just when
the new IEP is developed. Many states have conferences for educators, employers, and family members of individuals with special
needs. There are also many national organizations that offer online resources (webinars, yay!) for families of individuals with
disabilities. When your child is in high school, start looking into local vocational rehabilitation agencies. Your child's special
education teacher should be able to help with this process.