As has been discussed earlier, the struggles of a family go beyond the pregnancy period. Raising a disabled child requires constant care and support from professionals on the part of the family. In order to better cater to the needs of the family, several models have been put in place. Following are several models often utilized by professionals either in prenatal help or in the support during the developmental stages of the child.
Sloper presented a model which is the key worker or link person model which brings in the involvement of a particular person whom parents may approach as needed for advice and help regarding their child’s needs (Sloper 1999). Such person is necessarily knowledgeable about the disability of the child and, more importantly, is able to act as go-between of the family and healthcare professionals. The key worker is thus able to tap into the resources of established agencies in order to aid the family in their specific areas of concern. Such a model has potential for improved relations of parents with professionals.
It is postulated that the negative attachments that the community makes on individuals with disabilities becomes translated at the level of parent beliefs, and predicts that these are likely to be problematic for effective parenting. It has thus been observed that with their negative viewpoint on disabilities, parents begin to see their child through the keyhole of such disability. This has been referred to as spread wherein observations made about personal characteristics are based on a solitary characteristic, in this case the disability (Seligman & Darling 1997).
Parents perceiving their children in such a manner are thus constrained to tolerate the problematic behaviors exhibited by their children. These parents believe that change may be effected only with the intervention of professionals as the condition of their child is a medical problem after all. Such a perspective has been challenged. Parents are thus made aware of their role in transmitting societal rules and codes of acceptable conduct in order that the child is empowered to participate in significant areas of society. It is thus taught that raising disabled children is no different from raising non-disabled children.
Behavioral problems should be addressed and not tolerated by parents as they have a role and a responsibility to discipline their children in order for them to develop more balanced personalities and more acceptable patterns of behavior. Parents may manage to attain such level of awareness without the aid of professionals, but for those who do not, help in identification of areas wherein over-generalization of the effects of the impairment is made. Counseling models are also employed to focus on the specific values and needs of families (Sloper 1999).
Such models focus on mobilizing resources for the aid of families. With such interpersonal connection between families and professionals, the personal concerns of the family may be better addressed. Effective aid has been to manifest the features of relationship building, communication, honesty and clarity, understanding of family’s own concerns, and responsiveness to family values and goals (Sloper 1999). Stress and coping theories have also been employed in addressing family understanding of their situation through the coping skills model of service support to the family (Sloper 1999).
The theories are applied in a process of parent training in problem solving and decision making as well as other aspects necessary to enable them to interact well with their disabled child and their family. Other models of therapy and support that cater to the needs of parents and the families of children with disabilities are also available apart from those mentioned above. What is important to note though, is that the situation of a disabled child cannot be treated as an isolated condition.
Of great importance is the manner in which the child is raised and made to believe that despite his impairment, he is no different from non-disabled children and persons and is thus capable of the same ambitions and achievements as the same. Conclusion Society perceives disability as a misfortune thus; parents receiving a diagnosis that their child is disabled are likely to feel sorrowful. But it is important that regardless of the negativity, families are able to take on a more positive stance. The ability of professionals to communicate a diagnosis during the prenatal stage strengthens the family base which the child will enter into.
Furthermore, the presence of a professional who is sincere in the giving of help empowers the parents to cope with the knowledge of their child’s disability. It should thus be kept in mind that early intervention allows for smoother adaptation to the novel situation of having an impaired child. Such intervention also enables the direct social network of the family to make commensurate adjustments. Therefore, parents and significant others must be made to understand even at an early stage that although the child is impaired, this by no means makes him a liability to the family.
The family must understand the future role they are to play in the development of the child. They are not bystanders to the process of therapy that is to be rendered by professionals. Rather, they are active partners of professionals and primary disciplinarians and nurture-givers of the child. References Cuskelly and Dadds, 1992 M. Cuskelly and M. Dadds, Behavioral problems in children with Down’s syndrome and their siblings, Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 33 (1992), pp. 111–124.
Cuskelly and Gunn, 1993 M. Cuskelly and P. Gunn, Maternal reports of behavior of siblings of children with Down syndrome, American Journal of Mental Retardation 97 (1993), pp. 521–529. Cuskelly and Gunn, 2006 M. Cuskelly and P. Gunn, Adjustment of children who have a sibling with Down syndrome: Perspectives of mothers, fathers, and children, Journal of Intellectual Disabilities Research 50 (2006), pp. 917–925. Cuskelly, 1999 M. Cuskelly, Adjustment of siblings of children with a disability: Methodological issues, International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling 21 (1999), pp. 111–124.