There are around nine-million parents with disabilities in general in America today, with more parents experiencing forms of disabilities each year. Parents with disabilities are a growing population and many families have at least one parent who is disabled.
The disabilities parents might experience cover all categories of disabilities. Parents may have physical disabilities, they may be blind or deaf. Parents may also experience forms of cognitive or psychiatric disabilities.
There are four critical areas that impact the lives of parents with disabilities. These areas necessarily have an impact on their children and the family's ability to function as a whole. The areas include custody, paratransit, family roles and personal assistance, as well as intervention with parents who experience forms of cognitive disabilities and their children.
The challenges facing parents with developmental disabilities are many. Experiences in the lives of these parents can take a toll over time, particularly if other people have had placed negative values upon them. Over a period of time, parents with developmental disabilities might internalize the negative expectations others may place on them. There have been a number of reported experiences by parents with developmental disabilities in this regard.
Negative Social Experiences and Parents with Developmental Disabilities
Parents with developmental disabilities who receive negative feedback from others can experience learned dependency on others, as well as a fear of authority figures. They may experience a lack of average problem-solving skills, limited social skills, and a tendency to rely on a benefactor to make decisions. Parents with developmental disabilities may feel stigmatized or unwanted, and may learn to use cover-up techniques or behaviors to hide perceived deficits from people they feel are treating them poorly.
When people who interact with parents who have developmental disabilities do so improperly or negatively, the parents can begin to expect relationships to be unequal. They can experience limitations to their social skills, and expect harsh consequences when they have not met expectations that are unreasonable to begin with. Their ability to become self-sufficient is greatly diminished.
Where life experiences are concerned, parents with developmental disabilities have reported feeling neglected and deprived, as well as reporting trauma and abuse. They can experience unemployment, poverty, and a lack of job skills. Parents with developmental disabilities have reported being mistreated by people who are supposed to be there to help them, leaving them feeling overwhelmed by their circumstances.
Support Parents with Disabilities
It is vital to support parents with developmental disabilities in particular! All parents with disabilities deserve an immense amount of respect, love, friendship and support from others in the community. There is no reason parents with developmental disabilities should experience neglect or abuse at the hands or mouths of others in the communities they are a part of.
Every single person, to include parents and other people with disabilities, have a combination of characteristics that can be perceived as strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is an individual and the majority of us do not describe ourselves in terms of, 'special,' characteristics because there is no one, single characteristic that completely describes any one person. No one goes around saying for example, 'I am Tom, the Tennis Shoes Person of Average Intelligence.' Even if I did make such a statement about myself, what would it really tell you about me? Would you know what I enjoy doing, or what I am good at? Would you know what makes me happy or sad, or how I get along with others
It is important to extend courtesy and respect to parents with disabilities and people with disabilities. Many parents with disabilities have been introduced to others as, 'a developmentally-delayed woman,' or a, 'disabled man.' People who introduce parents with disabilities, as well as other people with disabilities, in such a manner are demonstrating an incredible lack of respect for them.
Where parents with disabilities are concerned it is incredibly important to emphasize the person and not their disability. 'This is Tom, the guy who writes for Disabled-World.com.' Do not say things like, 'Oh, here comes that epileptic guy.' When you see a mother with disabilities say for example, 'Oh, here comes Susan! She is the mother of Steven, that wonderful boy who makes those pretty drawings!' It doesn't take much to show respect for others in society, and demonstrating respect for parents with disabilities and others who experience forms of disabilities is just as easy. Friendships are made in such ways, and who doesn't want a friend in life
Parents with disabilities - there are many resources out there to assist you. Some of these resources have stories from parents just like you, who have disabilities and are raising children. 'Parents with Disabilities Online,' has articles written about and for those who are raising children and who experience forms of disabilities. The site is a wonderful place to visit. There is also a site called, 'Family Village,' that has a number of links to various resources for you to browse through. There is an entire network for parents though the National Parent Technical Assistance Center as well.
Family Village - www.familyvillage.wisc.edu/general/parentswdis.html
Parents with Disabilities - A Fair Chance - www.developmentaldisability.org/parents_with_disabilities.htm
Parents with Disabilities Online - www.disabledparents.net/ourstories.html
National Parent Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) Network - www.parentcenternetwork.org/national/aboutus.html