Raising a family or simply being part of a growing family always has its ups and downs. It is only natural that there are moments of pronounced stress or even that there is a certain level of constant pressure in the atmosphere, no matter how small. In the matter of making additions to a marriage or family, all members experience a feeling of anticipation and adjustments are naturally made. Therefore, finding out that the baby is disabled in one way or another, holds potential for adverse effects on the expectant family.
A family’s struggle with the needs of an impaired child begins even before the birthing of such child. The situation is fraught with stress as parents must cope with learning of their child’s disability and setting aside their upheld expectations of their future child. Not only has this, but societal stigma in itself burdened the family of a potentially impaired child. It is little wonder that families of disabled children find themselves battling daily the roadblocks of societal expectation and self-motivation – the days being counted even prior to the actual meeting of the child.
The aim then is to aid these families in order that they may better integrate their established routines with the present novel needs of their family situation. Regardless therefore of whether or not families find peace in their situations, professional help is needed. It would be too much to expect that parents and other members of the family find their way on their own, efficiently establishing a system of coping and adaptation.
It should be borne in mind that in order to adequately answer the future needs of yet-to-be-born impaired children, their families must first be given attention. It has been shown that professional support for the families of disabled children has a decisive consequence both on the chances for a good upbringing of the child and for general parental well-being (Granat, Lagander, & Borjessen 2002). These are the issues that professionals must consider in addressing circumstances of families of disabled children.
As Sloper (1999) put it, the manner in which family members perceive and interpret the strains experienced in parenting a disabled child is an important factor for the entire family’s wellbeing. Discussion Families and Their Prenatal Diagnosis Experience To be able to accurately address the problem, healthcare professionals need to view the issue from the starting point. Recent technology has provided means for medical professionals to diagnose disabilities prior even to the birth of a child.
Several medical techniques used are amniocentesis, ultrasound fluorescence in situ hybridization test, and maternal serum testing (Seligman & Darling 2007). The responsibility of medical and mental health professionals to provide aid to parents in understanding their role in their child’s disability begins at the moment of information and realization of the disability. How siblings adjust to having a brother or sister with a disability is an important question to address, both from an applied and a theoretical perspective.
From the standpoint of potential interventions and supports, it is important to know if siblings of children with disabilities are at increased risk for social, behavioral, or emotional problems, and, if so, what factors promote or hinder the emergence of such difficulties (Labato, 1993), while from a theoretical perspective, research examining the effects of living with a sibling with a disability has the potential of adding greatly to our understanding of the family’s influence on child development and adaptation (Stoneman, 2005).
Given its importance, it is not surprising that research examining the adjustment of siblings of children with disabilities has increased in recent years (Del Rosario & Keefe, 2003; Rossiter & Sharpe, 2001; Summers, White, & Summers, 1994).
Nevertheless, the question of whether siblings of children with disabilities evidence more problems than other children remains unresolved, with some studies reporting increased adjustment difficulties (Cuskelly & Dadds, 1992; Cuskelly & Gunn, 1993; Giallo & Gavida-Payne, 2006; Hannah & Midlarksy, 1999), while other studies report no significant group differences (Cuskelly & Gunn, 2006; Dyson, 1988; Mandleco, Olsen, Dyches, & Marshall, 2003; Van Riper, 2000).
It has been suggested that these contradictory findings may be due, in part, to various methodological differences between studies, including the use of different comparison groups, different measures of sibling adjustment, and the inclusion of children with different disorders and disabilities (Cuskelly, 1999 and Stoneman, 2005).