Raising A Child With A Disability

Raising A Child With A Disability

Kenny and Michal

Australia At A Glance When It Comes To Children With A Disability

In Australia, there is a broad range of disabilities that affect some Australian children. According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, at least 3.4 percent of Australian children in 2009 between the ages of 0 and 4 were living with a disability. There were 8.8 percent of Australian children at the age between 5 to 14 who also had a disability.

In total in 2009, there are 288,400 children in Australia with a disability including chronic illnesses, intellectual or physical disability. The most highest number of children with a disability in Australia were found in Indigenous communities. Disabilities are determined by the level of or the limitations a child may experience in core activities such as in school, a child’s health, movement, self-care, communication, learning and in their everyday activities.

What Are The Challenges For Australian Parents Raising A Child with A Disability?

For parents and families, raising a child with a disability can affect many aspects of family functioning. Many relationships can break down, parents can often feel burnt out or stressed and can experience a whole range of challenges. It is important to look at the types of challenges that parents can face when raising children with disabilities in order to get the right support and help when required.

Emotional Challenges

One of the most natural and common reactions parents will first experience when they find out their child has a disability is grief. Wanting your child to be healthy and happy is most important, and when a parent finds out that their child has a disability, this can often lead parents feeling helpless, frustrated and feel a sense of loss. However, after processing your feelings, a parent’s love for their child will always go beyond these initial feelings. Shock, anger, fear and sadness may also be feelings that parents can often experience through their parenting journey when raising any child.

Learning how to deal with these emotions in a constructive and positive way is an important element in parenting. Reading books, going to support groups or seeking help from a professional can be great steps to getting you informed about coping strategies and ways to deal with these emotions.

Parents will be tested emotionally daily and it is about finding solutions to problems or mechanisms to cope that will help you become stronger as an individual and as a parent.

Physical Challenges

Being a parent of a child with a disability can be very demanding physically. In 2009, the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 67 percent, which accounts for two thirds of children with a disability, required ongoing assistance with everyday activities.

48 percent of children required assistance with cognitive and/or emotional activities. These activities include thinking through problems, coping, socializing, interacting and maintain relationships.

As a parent, you may also naturally become your child’s carer for long term assistance, which can mean long hours every day, constant care and not a lot of time for yourself. This is particularly the case for severe disabilities where mobility, self-care, health care and communication require assistance.

Over one third, which is 38 percent of Australian parents who participated in the survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that their relationship with their spouse or partner was strained due to their caring role. However, it was also found that 39 percent of parents felt that the experience brought them closer than ever before.

It is important to make sure self-care is a priority, where you are still able to continue with your hobbies, interests, spend time with friends and other family members and also get a time off from being a carer.

Financial Challenges

One of the most difficult challenges to deal with is the financial strain that families may experience raising a child with a disability. For many parents experiencing the financial burden and out of pocket costs to give the proper and best care to their child, this strain can impact other areas of their lives including relationships, emotional stability, employment opportunities and living standards.

Australian Bureau of Statistics in 2009 also found that almost two thirds at 64 percent of parents, reported that “the main financial impact of their caring role was a decreased income or an increase in their expenses”.

Some of these expenses include:

– Home Modifications

– Therapies and support services

– Equipment And Transport Costs

– Schooling and Special Education Needs

– Medication

photo by: Honza Soukup