Nobody decides to get pregnant and have a child with an intellectual disability, but life is complex, and we don’t always know how things are going to work out.
For parents whose child is given a diagnosis of intellectual disability, it can be devastating. They are likely to experience grief for the loss of the child they imagined having, along with fear for the future, and feelings of guilt for not always being as accepting of the situation as they think they should be. All of these feelings are perfectly normal and, rather than trying to suppress them, it is healthier to accept them, and work with them towards a resolution. It may be useful to spend time with a therapist and/or to engage with a support group or with group therapy so as to work through difficult or unwelcome emotions associated with the new situation. It’s OK not to be happy with it, or to have feelings of anger. With support and a safe space in which to talk, you will be able to move forward in a positive manner.
One of the most important things to remember when raising a child with an intellectual disability is that they are usually more similar to other children than they are different. Research shows that one of the most important inputs to a child’s life, and their future success, is the sort of relationship they build with their primary caregivers in the very early years of their life. Put simply, this means that the most important thing you can do as a parent is to show your child that you love them. Physical caresses, loving attention, and support as they reach whatever milestones they are able to achieve will all help them to learn and grow.
Parents of children with intellectual disabilities are often surprised by how much they can actually achieve. For example, in the case of Down Syndrome, education of children with this particular challenge has come on in leaps and bounds. With the right support, many children with Down Syndrome can learn how to live quite autonomous lives, to read and write, and even to hold down a job. Increasingly, children with Down Syndrome are attending mainstream school—this is important, as they will learn how to live in a society in which not everyone is like them.
Parents with more than one child may worry that their disabled child will take all their attention, and that the rest of the family will suffer. While this is certainly a risk, understanding this fact makes it easier to mitigate against it.
In raising a child with an intellectual disability, it is important to be aware of the supports that are available. As well as state supports (such as special needs education), there are parents’ groups that can give advice and provide help.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.