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Dealing with a disability

3-minute read

Parents of disabled children experience a wide range of emotions. Having a child with special needs can be draining – physically, mentally and emotionally. Talking with others about your child’s special needs can be tricky, but knowing what to say can help you deal with the situation and educate others at the same time.

Dealing with your feelings

If your child is diagnosed with a disability, it is common to feel a whole range of different emotions – denial, guilt, shock, anger, fear, sadness, and so on. It can be a very overwhelming and stressful time.

Your child will need extra care and support and soon you’ll have to start navigating the disability service system, which is complex.

It’s important to try and deal with your feelings and look after yourself as best you can.

To help you deal with and accept your child’s diagnosis, try talking with your partner, your other children, family and friends. This will also help support them during this time. You can seek extra support from your extended family.

To manage during this stressful time, accept and acknowledge your feelings. Talk to other people like your partner, a family member, close friend or counsellor about how you feel.

Find out more about your child’s disability. This will help you understand your child’s needs and help you plan support and care for your child.

Avoid comparing your child with other children. Try to see your child’s strengths and opportunities. Focus on progress, as your child will still be reaching goals — celebrate their effort with them.

It’s also important to keep in mind the needs of any other children you have, and your own adult relationships. Keep up your existing family routine. This can limit the stress on yourself and the rest of your family.

Talking about your child's disability

You may feel embarrassed, or other people may feel awkward and not know what to say or how to act around you. But talking with others about your child’s disability can actually be a positive experience.

You can educate other people about your child’s condition and needs, which can help build support and understanding. This experience can also help educate others about how to talk about children with disabilities.

It’s a good idea to have a response ready so you don’t have to keep thinking of what to say if someone asks about your child's disability.

People will respond to your child’s disability in different ways. Sometimes you may be offended by what people say or how they act. Sometimes you might choose to ignore them. Other times you might challenge any comments they make or acts of discrimination they perform.

If you are finding it hard to talk with other people about your child’s disability, you can talk to a qualified counsellor for support and guidance on dealing with your situation.

Special needs? What next?

If your child is diagnosed with a disability, starting early intervention is very important. The type of early intervention and treatment you get depends on your child’s disability.

You may need to take your child to see a paediatrician and other health professionals, who can assess your child’s needs and help you organise the right care and support. This is also important if you and your child need to access financial support and parent support.

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse.

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Last reviewed: June 2019

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