Raising A Disabled Child

One of the most challenging things a parent can face is raising a child with a disability. Along with the day to day struggles, parents often feel as though they're being judged by their peers. Denise Brodey, author of "The Elephant in the Playroom" and mother of a special needs child, shares her experiences.

Brodey's son suffers from Sensory Integration Dysfunction. Everyday experiences are often overwhelming for him. "He basically became a control freak," says Brodey. "He would want to control every single situation because he would be so anxious that something would be too confusing for him or too overwhelming." While children are usually able to deal with stress by a certain age, Brodey's son often became overly frustrated when things didn't go his way.

Brodey faced a problem that special needs families often encounter; While she and her family understood her son's disability, the general public did not. In her book, Brodey classifies other parents into two camps: "Camp A" and "Camp B".

"Camp A" parents often look at special needs children throwing tantrums and question the mother or father's parenting skills. They blame the parents for the child's behavior, even though they don't know the background to the situation. "It's hard," says Brodey. "You have to put on the Teflon coating... There are some really bad days where you feel really lonely."

"Camp B" parents are a special needs parent's allies. "Camp B" parents are friends and family who support a special needs parent when they're down and listen to them when they need to vent. "It's the world," says Brodey. She stresses the importance of finding a support group, consulting a counselor or surfing the internet for information and other parents who may share similar experiences with their special needs child.

It's also important to stay close to one's spouse, especially on very difficult days. "Any time there's a stressful situation, you have to be able to come together as a team or you'll fall apart," says Brodey. While caring for a special needs child can be extremely trying, it's important to keep in mind that both parents are working towards one common goal: keeping their family happy and healthy.

Life can also be stressful for the siblings of a disabled child. Brodey advises that you devote extra time to other children so that they don't become overwhelmed. "We basically started by just planning out times when they were separate," says Brodey.

To read the full interview with Denise Brodey, check out this month's issue of American Baby Magazine. For more information on other parenting tips, click here.

By Erin Petrun