Finding Out Your Child Has a Disability: It's Not
the end of the World
by: Dr. Mark Nagler, Ph.D.
Finding out that a child has been born with a disability, or that a
previously healthy child has suffered an injury or disease that causes a
disability can be the most traumatic moment in a parent’s life. Shock is
usually the first thing people experience. It can temporarily paralyze
you, preventing you from taking action, or even making rational
decisions. In this difficult first period it is always wise to take the
counsel of professionals and family members with experience or others
whom you trust, while always maintaining the right to make the final
After coming to grips with the shock of their situation, many parents
come to feel that their expectations have been dashed, that they are
failures as parents or that their family has been destroyed.
Uncertainty, blame or jealousy may arise. Parents may worry about
hundreds of questions that have few immediate answers which can lead to
an unbalanced and overly bleak view of the opportunities, potential, and
joy that can be found in raising a child with a disability.
These emotions however are normal; part of a “mourning” process that
many parents of children with disabilities go through. If you have these
feelings, remember that you are not the only ones who feel this way, and
that you will get over them. You can adjust more quickly by obtaining
accurate information, sharing your feelings openly with others, seeking
professional counseling, and, most importantly, having open discussions
with all members of your immediate family. With time, love, and support,
any negative emotions you feel can be replaced by positive ones leading
to productive actions that will benefit your child.
It is not the end of the world, and many families have become
stronger, more loving, and more closely knit because of a disability in
the family. The disability gave them the opportunity to work together to
help out their loved one, and the entire family shares in the gains that
are made by the child. Many of the negatives that parents imagine that
go along with having a child who has a disability simply do not occur.
While you will have to make some sacrifices, you will still have time
for your friends, family, and hobbies. After awhile, many of the
activities you once viewed as sacrifices will come to be seen as part of
every life, rather than an exceptional burden.
Developing a positive attitude is very important, and although
children with disabilities will inevitably become aware of their
limitations, they should always be encouraged to take on new challenges.
This is sometimes difficult as children with physical limitations may be
reluctant to participate in physical activities out of fear of failure.
Despite these fears, both the child’s and the parent’s perspective
should be “have fun, and do your best.”
Some parents of children with disabilities are unable to have their
special child live at home with them, but the vast majority is able to
successfully manage within the home. If you are finding you cannot cope,
there are alternatives available that will allow you to maintain a
loving relationship with your child while maximizing appropriate care.
The most important factor in a family’s success is the motivation to
succeed. If a child realizes that his parents always encourage success
and will not be satisfied with anything less than his best effort, he
will be motivated to succeed. Never settling for failure becomes part of
his character, and his self-esteem will be enhanced and maintained.
There is a wide range of disabilities that affect children but the
constant emphasis on always trying your best, reinforced in an
atmosphere of warmth and support, will help any child with a disability
triumph over the challenge that he will face. Instilling this confidence
will help him have faith in himself and work on his own behalf
throughout the course of his entire life.
|About The Author
Dr. Mark Nagler is an acknowledged expert for people with
disabilities. He was born with Cerebral Palsy and has triumphed over
his disability by becoming an expert in the Disability Studies
field. He has a B.A. from the University of British Columbia, a
Masters degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from
Stirling University in Britain. Dr. Nagler approaches disability
from a different perspective than that offered by most experts and,
although he has never been able to write, he was able to achieve his
impressive array of degrees. He taught at Hamilton's McMaster
University and the University of Waterloo and he has lectured across
Canada, the United States, Britain, Sweden, Hungary and Israel. He
has used his cerebral palsy to empower students, parents and anyone
else with whom he comes in contact. His book, “Yes You Can”,
illustrates his own experience in over coming disability and his
other work, “What's Stopping You?”, conveys strategies that adults
can successfully use in living with disability.