Growing Great Families – Parenting The Exceptional Child
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Children who are exceptional, either those with disabilities or those with special gifts present unique challenges for families. Today we are going to spend some time talking about parenting a child with a disability. We will follow up on our next show with parenting a child who is gifted and talented.
We start with defining what we mean by a disability. A condition – either physical, emotional, cognitive – that impairs an individual’s functioning in such a way that accommodations are needed to compete on a level playing field with individuals without a disability. We remind our listeners that the degree of impairment is more important than a label or a diagnosis in assessing the needs of a child with a disability. One must examine an individual’s specific needs based on how well they function in a variety of settings rather than just respond to the name of their disability.
In addition we discuss the similarities and differences of how different disabilities impact on family life. At times, despite the obvious challenges, the purely physical disabilities are easier to accommodate than the hidden disabilities – emotional and cognitive. We point out, for example, that divorce rates among families with a child with a disability may be as high as 80%. In addition, siblings of children with a disability often feel abandoned because of the extra time and energy devoted to their brother or sister with a disability. We hone in on specific parenting practices that help families to manage and thrive despite the fact that there is a child or children with a disability in the family. Following the Family Centered Parenting strategies will help with the caution that there is just a smaller margin of error in implementing the recommended practices. We conclude with a discussion of what makes some families more successful than others – by successful we mean making the most of their abilities rather than being victims of a disability.