When a Child is Diagnosed with a Mild Disability: 5 Steps for Parent

Written by: Melanie Arons

The first time I ever spoke to parents about parenting a child diagnosed with a mild disability, I was in my internship year working towards my master’s degree in family counseling.

I created an educational support group for parents and had about eight women and one man signed-up to attend.  Before our first group session, I watched as each parent came into the large conference room. It was obvious from the minute the father stepped into the room that he was very uncomfortable. I could tell that he did not want to be there and was probably being dragged there by his wife. Each    group member was asked to introduce themselves and say what they hoped to learn from this group. The father went last. When it was his turn, he looked me straight in the eye and said there is nothing he would get out being a part of this group. He said that if he wanted to learn about his son’s disability, he would ask his son’s special education teacher.

I simply stated that he was in luck because I too am a special education teacher. He then said that if he wanted to understand what his son is going through, he would ask his son. I told him that although every experience is unique, I was diagnosed with a learning disability in first grade. He then said that if he wanted to know about parenting, he would ask another parent. I smiled and stated that I am also a parent. Finally, the man gave me a smile and said “Okay, I guess I could learn something from you.”

My hope is that by leading educational groups, doing seminars and teaching classes on parenting a child diagnosed with a mild disability, that every parent can learn something from me.

Here are the suggestions I present:

  1. Defining the Disability:  When parents understand the limitations and effect of the disability correctly, they can explain it to their child most appropriately.
  2. Advocating for your child: Parents who advocate for their child and make sure that all teachers and specialists understand their child’s needs, will insure best services for their child as well as model advocating to their child.
  3. Building Self-Esteem: It is important for children to understand that a disability can be a strength, everyone has struggles and that everyone is different so that having a disability doesn’t bring down their self-esteem.
  4. Coping and Grieving the Disability: Many times parents need to get past their original goals and hopes for their child and create new ones knowing that their child is going to have some limitations and/or struggles due to his or her diagnosis. Developing positive coping skills and taking care of themselves and not just their child, will help parents accept these changes and eventually be okay with them.
  5. Dealing with the “Why Me” factor: Many times children diagnosed with a disability become frustrated and want to know, “Why me?” Although parents cannot answer the question of why, parents can explain the disability without becoming emotional and staying positive. They can focus on their child’s strengths and help them to understand the ways that having a disability can make them stronger. Parents can also help their children to find healthy coping skills for dealing with their frustration. This will help children accept their diagnosis.

Melanie Arons, LCPC is a psychotherapist who works at Flourish Studios’ psychotherapy practice and is building her practice helping parents, children and families struggling with behavioral or learning difficulties. Melanie is also a mother and proud member of NPN. More information about Melanie can be found at www.icanflourish.comand can be contacted at Melanie@icanflourish.com or (312) 316-6362.

Posted on May 08, 2012 at 8:18 PM