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When Your Child Has a Disability

Hearing that your child has a disability can be overwhelming. You may feel a range of emotions, including disbelief, anger and helplessness. These are all common reactions. This may not be an easy time. But, there is much you can do that is positive.

Of course, every child and family is unique. Try to take it one day at a time – and know you are doing the best you can for your child.

Take heart

From where you stand now, the hopes you had for your child can seem so different. In their place, you may find sadness and fear. Your worries might range from wondering about your child's future to whether you could somehow be to blame.

Again, it's important to know that feelings such as these are normal. Yes, there will be challenges ahead. But, you don't have to face them alone. It can be reassuring to know that there are resources available for children and families.

Seek knowledge

A good way to begin to move forward is to learn what you can about your child's disability. This may ease some of your anxiety. And, it can help you better understand what you might expect – and what you can do to help. Look for information from reliable sources. These could include national organizations that focus on specific disabilities. And, visit the National Dissemination Center for Children with DisabilitiesOpens a new window.

Talk with the doctors and other professionals who see your child. Ask questions as often as you need. They can also help you find additional resources and services.

Connect with other parents

Many people find it very helpful to talk with other parents of children with disabilities. This might be one-to-one or in a support group. Other parents may offer encouragement you need. And, they can be great sources of information and practical advice. This support may help you feel less alone.

And, in today's world, you don't necessarily need to meet in person. Online networks make it easy for parents to reach out when it's most convenient for them.

Open up

Don't shut yourself off from others. Are there people in your life – perhaps family members or close friends – who you know will be supportive? You might lean on them for strength. Or, simply let them listen and care. Don't hesitate to speak with a counselor, as well.

Live your life

Try to take positive steps each day. These tips can help you cope – and help your family thrive:

  • Take care. Look after your own mental and physical health. If caregiving is wearing you out, ask for help. Don't feel guilty. Remember, your child needs you to be well.
  • Focus on what's good. There will be tough days. But, there will be happy times ahead, too.
  • Be a family. Other children may feel overlooked. Or, spouses may find themselves drifting apart. Ask loved ones how they're feeling. And, spend time together. Balance is important in any family.

Remember, above all, your child needs your love and acceptance. Just as you would want others to do, appreciate your child for the unique and wonderful person he or she is.

Source: Healthy Mind Healthy Body®, Dr. Tanise Edwards, May 2010.

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