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Family Problems with Children with Special Needs

Prof. Dr. Fathia Muhammed Bahshawan

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The sophistication of the nations and the civilization of populations is measured by the extent of their interest in the humanity of human beings in them on which God has created it, intact (fully structured) or improper (disabled).


The term disability refers to anyone who suffers from a permanent physical or mental problem or deficiency with which he is unable to meet his personal needs in normal circumstances, such as the loss of a body member, paralysis, ophthalmia and others.


Some people confuse the term “disability” with the term “special needs”. A child with special needs does not necessarily have a physical or intellectual disability, as much as he is a child who needs special care to keep up with his peers.


The term “disabled people” is usually given to those who need specialized methods, ways or techniques to deal with them to improve their mental or physical abilities that are relatively behind the level of others.


Those who suffer from learning difficulties, speech problems, behavior problems and autism fall under this term. It is a more general and comprehensive term that includes persons with disabilities as well.


The birth of a disabled child in the family is not easy. His situation is different from other children because he needs special attention and care as well as reactions take various forms, such as feeling shocked when the disability becomes clear, sadness for the child, not recognizing the disability at the subconscious level which leads to transfer the child from one specialist to another, a feeling of fear for the child’s future and his status in society, and feeling despair in light of the failure of all attempts to treat him, anger, and possibly guilt.

There is no doubt that daily life with a child with special needs is full of multiple difficulties and obstacles, which imposes a new family reality to help him overcome this reality. The presence of a child with special needs in the family has an impact on the nature of social relations, among the  family members with each other and the family members and other people not belonging to the family.


Among the most important of these problems is spending most of the parents’ time caring for the child, especially in cases of severe disability, as this requires great effort of the family members, especially the mother, which is reflected in her lack of attention to the rest of the children. As well as the problem of social isolation and limited social mobility as the family's fear is caused by the presence of a child with special needs. All this may contribute to the isolation and interruption of the external relationship. In addition, the presence of this child may affect marital relations because of the enormous pressure on the mother in particular, and the family in general, especially if this relationship was not strong before the birth of the child.


Each mother of a disabled child has her own suffering and bitter situation according to the state of her child's disability. The mother, in particular, has a great responsibility to take care of her disabled son and take care of all the details of his social and psychological life, especially rehabilitation. Therefore, the organizations interested in disability issues and their effects must intervene in order to rehabilitate mothers of disabled children, support them psychologically, socially and financially, and guide them in the family for the best life practices to deal with their disabled child and accept his presence in the family and life in general.


In addition to raising a child with special needs, the mother suffers from the burdens of raising other children. The brothers and sisters of this child go through a different set of feelings that range from love, hate, competition, loyalty and a feeling of jealousy towards him. They may even revolt against the family because of the limited recreational opportunities available, and feel embarrassed as a result of the negative view of society. And often the mother is the focus of interaction with the children, therefore, it is more vulnerable than others to stresses and shocks. As for the father, he is, sometimes, a pressure factor on the mother more than a helping one, when he blames her and reduces the value of her effort or frustrates her with the futility of making efforts to help the child. As a result of the additional burdens experienced by the mother, she may be unable to perform most of the tasks that she previously performed well, or not at all.


The impact of disability on the family of the disabled person does not depend on the social aspect, thus the family is also affected psychologically. Most of these families are exposed to severe psychological pressure, as the family suffers from feelings of depression and chronic distress that negatively affect the emotional balance of its members. The parents are also exposed to some psychological pressures that may lead to organic diseases such as stress, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. The family may feel ashamed of the community due to negative perception and reactions which increases feelings of guilt and anxiety for the child's future life.


These families may suffer from economic problems, including financial pressures as a result of the high financial cost and the consequent depletion of most of the family’s resources because the child needs financial assistance for treatment first, to continue living and to be able to survive, especially those with a physical disability. There is also the suffering of the financial burdens allocated to the purchase of medicines, treatment and medical supervision, in addition to physical care, due to their need for specialized intensive care in disability. Parents suffer from financial problems due to their need for money for their education and schools, whether public or private, or specialized centers for people with special needs, and all of this causes material exhaustion and double psychological pressure on parents in the absence of sufficient funds for the disabled.


Living with a disability is a difficult but not impossible process. Raising a child with special needs is more difficult, and the family of a disabled child affects and is affected by all the variables related to him. In addition to the burdens that the parent bear of caring for their disabled child, they interact psychologically and socially with everything related to the present and future life of their disabled child.  Therefore, the most important duties of the family are to be the support and motivator for him, and not to be the source of marginalization in society or make him feel that he is a burden so that he does not lose confidence in himself because it is the most important thing he needs in these circumstances, and it only comes from the family.


The inclusion of a disabled child in life begins from within the family and with the inclusion of the mother first as parents have a major role in developing and modifying the behavior of children with special needs, and this role requires parents first to know all the available information about their child’s disability, the means of treatment, and to adapt their lifestyle and the other children.

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