Issues and Concerns of Parents and Siblings of Children with Disabilities

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Parents and siblings of children with disabilities experience unique issues and concerns that distinguish them from members of families without disabilities. This essay will argue, in the process of exploring a number of these concerns. Most of these concerns have as a common focus the existence and nature of social and institutional structures that support them in the delivery of the additional needs that may be required for children with disabilities. As will be seen, the application of the social rather than the medical model of disability is critical to the existence and delivery of the above-noted services and accommodations.

The parents and siblings of children with disabilities love and care for their child/sibling in the same degree as in families with no experience of disability. This being said, however, the literature makes clear that there are a variety of stresses that accompany the experience of disability that put strains on the family unit. Often these families require social and institutional supports - for example, education in the special care that some children with disabilities may require - that can have a direct impact upon both the family and the child with a disability. As the literature on disability reveals, historically there has been a tendency to apply the "medical model" of disability to the assessment of the needs of children with disability. This model presupposes that the disabled individual possesses some inherent "flaw" that will result in their inevitably leading a tragic life with diminished potential in contrast to those without disabilities. Even today many medical institutions continue to promote this view of disability (Middleton 1999, p.1).

It is clear that this view of disability introduces profound strains upon parents and siblings of children with disabilities. Not only may it lead some parents/siblings to regard a child with disabilities as somehow "flawed" but it also exists as a "labelling" barrier in the wider...
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