Exceptional children are not the only ones who are impacted the family is too. Families play a key role with involvement with helping the child on a day-to-day basis. The impact on the family comes in different ways, the parents are not the only ones who are impacted, and it ranges from the siblings of the child with disabilities to the long distance cousins. A child with a disability can often place a set of extra demands or challenges on the family. Each family member will play some type of role in the child’s life. Family is the support and care system for the child throughout their life but it is often overlooked at the impact of each family member and how they function. The impact could be something small or life changing for the family member.
The first family members that are impacted are the parents of the child. They are impacted in many ways. The first way is learning how to care for the exceptional child. There are many challenges the parents can face when caring for the Exceptional Child. Many parents of exceptional Children experience a “range of emotions, but it is within such turmoil, that with support, they can begin to transform family life, and to shape new goals and expectations”. Each parent handles the situation of accepting they have an exceptional child from the moment they are told. “Parents differ in their responses to the situation. Some have the potential to achieve an impressive level of coping, maintain a positive outlook, and restructuring and sustaining life”. Each parent plays an important role in caring for the child. For the fathers, stress is one impact they face. “Although not all fathers considered the experience raising a child with disabilities as stressful, those who did have high stress perceived their children as less adaptable and acceptable, as well as more demanding, moody, and distractible. Fathers with high stress also had increased depression and decreased attachment to the child.”.
Fathers are sometimes faced with stress due to different factors. When caring for an exceptional child they may feel more pressured in many aspects. They may feel stress from making sure they are able to provide everything needed in caring for the child with the income they make. “While family members may look to the father for support at this time, his own needs often go unrecognized by professionals”. Fathers often work closely with their significant others in the day-to-day care of the child. The support systems for the fathers are often a close friend or family member. One support system fathers can look to be practitioners. However, “the level of involvement fathers had with services varied considerably, often depending on their age and the complexity of their support needs”. Fathers often have difficulty finding the time available to meet with practitioners usually because the flexibility of their employer. “All of the fathers gave a high priority to attending meetings and appointment”. Fathers with children with disabilities are often the workers and providers in the family system. Impacts on mothers and fathers vary depending on each individual and how they are handling raising a child with disabilities.
Mothers are often the ones who are the most impacted. “Large population studies show that in 94-98% of cases, mothers are the primary caregivers and persons most knowledgeable about the health and needs of a child with a disability.”. Each mother goes through different emotions when learning they have an exceptional child. Often mothers are overcome with depression, or impacted with challenges of the daily stress that is faced when caring for their child. Children are different in their own way; with exceptional children they are also exceptional in their own ways. Each mother is faced with a different challenge and impact compared to the other, the factor is the disability the child has. Mothers are the nurturers to the child. Mothers often seek professional help in learning how to care for their exceptional child. The mothers are often the ones to make sure the child goes to the doctors, has the right medication, and is at an appropriate level the child should be at. Being a mother of a child with disabilities can have different impacts depending on how the mother accepts the news and the family support system.
The next family members that are impacted are often the siblings. The effect on siblings of children with a disability is being increasingly recognized. Like the parents the siblings are greatly impacted by having a brother or sister who is an exceptional child. “Most of the literature to date is based
on the assumption that siblings of children with disabilities experience more stress than siblings of children with out disabilities, and has implied that siblings of children with disabilities are at high risk for developing psychological or behavioral difficulties”. The siblings can often feel the same stress the parents face because siblings often feel the need to help the parents as much as they can with their brother or sister. The Siblings can be negatively or positively affected by the impact of having a sibling who is exceptional. They can be impacted by factors that surround them, from attitude to parental influence on the child. Siblings are often known as the protector, especially if they are the older siblings; older siblings often help parents with the daily roles of caring for the exceptional child. Some Children described fulfilling older sibling roles, such as helping the younger sibling get ready for school and providing advice”. Older siblings of younger children with disabilities often have significant roles in the development of the child. The engagement can affect the child with disabilities in the future of their development as well. “Being the older sibling can provide opportunities to achieve competence as a care giver, mentor and role model, contributing to feelings of self worth and value”. Being an older sibling of a child with disabilities is a role that many older siblings take on without even realizing they are helping the child. With siblings of exceptional children often feel more responsible compared to their peers studies have shown, “Children with a disabled sibling, while trying to figure out the difference their sibling has, may feel that they hold more responsibility than their peers having non-disabled siblings” . Being a younger sibling of a child with disabilities also plays a large role. The younger sibling can also help in the same way the older sibling does. An impact a sibling may face is the psychological effects. Often the sibling feels the parents are neglecting them. Siblings also face the difficulty of trying to figure out why the disabled sibling is disabled and what they are dealing with in their lives. Another impact is “having a disabled sibling might harm the social and emotional processes of a child and let them experience various negative feelings in their emotional reactions”. The emotions the sibling may face could be anger, hostility, jealousy, along with guilt and fear. The sibling can emotionally and physically feel rejected by the family when around the exceptional child.
Overall siblings of children with disabilities can be affected negatively or positively depending on the way the parents impact the siblings.
The grandparents are another part of the family system that is impacted. When finding out the grandchild has a disability, the grandparents often go through the same process as the parents. Grandparents can be overcome with grief, anger, and depression but are always achieve acceptance, which can benefit the parents of the child. Grandparents have always been known to provide support in the family system and to also be caregivers when needed to the children. “Grandparents typically play a central role in family life-supporting their adult children, caring for their grandchildren and maintaining extended family relationships”. Grandparents are an important part of the family support system for resources to the parents and children. They are often help to the parents when needed. For example, “in Australia 10% of primary care givers report that the child’s grandparents provide significant assistance and share in the caring responsibilities”. If a grandparent does not provide support for the parents of a child with disabilities it is often not about the disability itself, “but about pre-existing family relationships”. Being a grandparent of a child with disabilities is often a challenge but through time grandparents adjust and play a vital role of the support needed.
The family system is vital when a child has a disability. They are impacted in different ways. The family system provides support, love, and care to the child throughout its life. Each family member is impacted in different ways, whether its by stress, or neglect. The family must overcome all their issues and focus on helping the child. The family is often faced with ongoing challenges through out the child’s life that impact various ways in the family. The whole family is impacted from the moment the baby is born, or they are told their child has a disability. The family must achieve acceptance and learn to care for the child throughout their life. Each family system deals with the impact in their own ways, some families may not have the support system from the family members for various reasons. It is important that the impact of having a child with a disability does not affect the child in life. The family system should always stay positive and loving with the child and be supportive as much as possible. The impacts on families are often overlooked when a child has a disability. However, families play a key role in the child’s day-to-day life.
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