The Role of Child Development Stages in Identifying Disability
Some physical disabilities are apparent at birth, but others may reveal themselves in specific child development stages as milestones are missed. Still others may be the result of accidents. Some parents report that it is more difficult to adjust to a sudden disability than one which is present from birth. Parenting is difficult under the best of circumstances and parenting a child with disabilities has its own set of challenges. One of the first challenges is dealing with the very real sense of grief that accompanies the knowledge that your child may experience pain and frustration associated with their disability. It is common for grief to be experienced at each of the child development stages.
In addition to grief, parents of children with disabilities also report experiencing guilt, anxiety, and anger, as well as worry regarding their child’s future. In cases of extreme physical disabilities that result in potentially life-threatening medical conditions, families must also make decisions regarding the extent to which science and technology may extend their lives. There is a very real economic impact on families as well, in terms of purchasing medical equipment, medications, or special foods.
However, love is a powerful force, and despite these challenges, many families report that the experience of having a family member with a disability has not only strengthened them as a family, but enriched their lives. They report experiencing more closeness, acceptance, and a greater respect for life. Additionally, support groups for children with disabilities in different child development stages provide opportunities for new friendships and a larger social support system.
Child Development Stages and Invisible Disabilities
While physical disabilities are often visible, other types of disabilities that are revealed in different child development stages are not. For example, it is estimated that 10% of the population has some form of learning disability. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 20 percent or one in five children between the ages of 13-18 in the U.S. experience a debilitating mental disorder. It is difficult to obtain global statistics, because many countries don’t report this data to the World Health Organization.
One of the most difficult and painful challenges that parents of children with disabilities face is, sadly, stigmatization and judgement from society. Often, in response to bullying or other forms of social rejection, parents can become understandably overprotective. The fact that children with disabilities are more vulnerable and at greater risk of mistreatment often contributes to the tendency towards being overprotective. Encouraging children with disabilities to reach their fullest potential is often made more difficult by a social and educational institutions created with a one-size-fits-all mentality.
Public Education about Disabilities: Making the World Better for All Children
Fortunately, great strides have been made in educating the public and raising social awareness of disabilities. That education includes focusing on their capabilities rather than their limitations. Each and every child has their own specific talents and abilities that parents learn to recognize during child development stages. One of the most important, and enjoyable, aspects of parenting is assisting the child in developing those abilities to the fullest. Children with disabilities are no exception, and like all children, bring joy to the lives of their families and friends with every new achievement.
Global organizations that provide support for parents and their children exist for almost every type of disability. These organizations transcend borders, race, and nationality, uniting parents in a common purpose–increasing the quality of life for children. Parents of children with disabilities have learned a great deal about advocating for both equal rights and resources for their children. The examples of parent advocacy they’ve provided, and the results they’ve achieved, could very well lead the way for improving the quality of life not just for children with disabilities, but for all children.