Friday, September 18, 2009

The Impact of Denying That A Child Has a Disability

Denial is one of the five stages of grief. It is how many people cope through the day; if they had to think of a "problem" or be realistic, then maybe they would "fall apart"; maybe not even be able to function through the day. Whether it be denying that there is a plumbing, marital, or workplace problem, eventually the truth will surface. Unfortunately, when denying (for a lengthy amount of time) that a child has a disability, developmental delay, or other special need, it is not helping the child any. I do believe that all parents will go through at least a short-term denial, and that is normal. But when it lingers to the point that the child is not getting the help that he or she needs, then I perceive that to be unhealthy.

Common things I see a parent denying is that:
  • The child needs genetic testing or other specialized testing such as an EEG or MRI
  • The child needs to see a specialist such as a neurologist, orthopedic doctor, psychologist, etc.
  • The child has more delays in development than perceived by the parents. This may be as simple as the parent cancelling therapy (speech, physical, occupational, ABA) sessions often because they are not deemed that important or as complicated as the parent refusing to follow through with a school district's or health care professional's suggestions such as receiving special education services
  • The child's need for a wheelchair. Even if the child learns to walk someday, they need an immediate means of mobility and to be upright for socializing with peers; mobility helps the child's self-esteem, endurance, and attention span

So why does this bother me so much? Well, so often I know the child could be functioning better. But also I know that one day when that child's legs are so stuck in a certain position that he needs surgery just to stay out of pain or when that child still can't read and write well in the 3rd grade, that the parents are going to regret the choices they had made 5 years prior. So many of the parents that either deny or just don't realize that the child's disability is as severe as it is, feel extremely guilty once reality hits. I especially find this to be the case with parents of children with autism or severe learning disabilities. They beat themselves up for not detecting the early signs or just blowing them off. I will sign off by saying if you have fallen to a bad case of denial, then first of all forgive yourself and ask your child for forgiveness. Then, move forward and be your child's strongest advocate. You can't ponder on the past, but you can change the future!

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