Developmental Disabilities And CaregivingPosted April 13, 2016 by Admin in Employee Insurance
What Are Developmental Disabilities?
The term “developmental disability” refers to impairment in a child’s physical functioning, learning, language or behavior. These conditions begin at birth or during childhood. They can restrict a child’s functioning in major life activities and are usually lifelong.
Types of developmental disabilities. Recent estimates show that about one in six, or 15 percent, of children in the U.S. ages 3-17 have one or more developmental disabilities or other developmental delays. Some of these include autism spectrum disorders; Down syndrome; language and learning disorders; cerebral palsy; fetal alcohol disorders; muscular dystrophy; behavioral disabilities (e.g., ADHD); and vision or hearing impairment.
Causes of these disabilities. Developmental disabilities appear to be caused by a complex mix of factors. Often the cause is never identified. Contributing factors can include genetic and chromosomal irregularities; poor parental health and behaviors (such as smoking or drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections impacting the mother or infant; and exposure to high levels of environmental toxins such as lead.
Steps to take. If you’re concerned that your child isn’t achieving certain developmental milestones—in terms of learning, behavior and/or movement—talk with your child’s pediatrician. Arrange for comprehensive evaluation of your child. Although a number of tests may be required to accurately identify a developmental disability, early identification can greatly benefit a child’s progress.
Supportive services. Depending on your child’s specific disability, treatments can include physical, speech, and occupational therapy, plus behavioral supports and coordinated care planning (wraparound) services. Learn everything you can about your child’s condition. Work with your child’s school system, agencies and providers to arrange the services that would benefit your child.
How A Child's Special Needs Can Impact The Family
Being a parent of a child with a developmental disability can be a challenge each and every day. However, it may help to remember that you are not alone. Millions of parents in America today are raising children with disabilities. It helps to network with other parents of disabled children for support and caregiving ideas. Below are some common challenges for families raising children with disabilities.
Parental stress levels may be high. Children with developmental disabilities typically have complex educational and childcare needs, in addition to specific social and recreational needs. They may require early intervention programs for physical, developmental, and/or emotional rehabilitation. Parents may struggle to coordinate various disjointed services while balancing their own lives. Given these challenges, parents of children with developmental disabilities experience depression and anxiety more often than other parents.
Other siblings can feel adverse effects. The time and energy required for parents to care for a disabled child can have an effect on other children in the home. In some cases, resentment, jealousy and short tempers may develop if the child with disabilities seems to require too much of the parents’ attention. Siblings’ health and development can be adversely affected. It’s important to be sensitive to other children’s feelings regarding their sibling with a developmental disability.
The family may feel financial strain. Although the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires school districts to provide free and appropriate educational services to children with disabilities, there are often other expenses that families must cover. These can include out-of-pocket costs for medical care, child care and other supportive therapies.
There also is an impact on the child with a disability. Given the cumulative effects of the challenges listed above, the child with a developmental disability may experience poorer health and well-being. The many challenges the family faces—if not addressed through active stress management techniques—can impact every member of the family.
Parents need to reach out for help. To address the family’s needs, parents should access resources such as your ParTNers EAP, respite care, social and recreational activities for children, medical advice specific to the child’s condition, and parent and sibling support groups.
A Caregiver's Health Is Crucial
Studies show that the health of someone caring for a child with a disability has an impact on the quality of care the child experiences. If the adult isn’t able to adequately take care of him or herself, the child suffers.
► Common shortfalls in parents’ self-care include not getting enough sleep, not exercising, not eating regular nutritious meals, and failing to seek medical attention for themselves. These factors can result in clinical depression, isolation from social activities, high stress and low quality of life.
► Caregivers often experience more disease symptoms, physical limitations, chronic health conditions and reduced immune function.
► Stress management is a necessity. If you're a caregiver, make sure you take breaks to rejuvenate yourself. Maintain your personal interests, hobbies and friendships; seek balance. Adopt stress management techniques like mindfulness, yoga, meditation or long walks outdoors.
► Don't ignore your health. If you get sick, arrange for backup caregiving, and see your doctor. Pay attention also to your mental and emotional health. Eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you stay resilient. Regular exercise will help you stay strong and reduce stress.
Tips For Caregivers
If you're caring for a child with a developmental disability, you might consider these ideas for improving your effectiveness.
→ Work in synch with the school and therapists. Maintain frequent communication with your child's teachers and therapist(s). Find out what skills your child is learning at school, and seek ways for your child to use those skills at home and in social situations.
→ Be an advocate for your child. If your child does not seem to be progressing, discuss this with the teachers.
→ Join a support group. There are parent support groups (either in-person or online via social media) targeted to every type of child disability. In addition to sharing ideas on how to best work with schools and therapists, a support group can help combat the isolation and fear you may experience as a caregiver.
→ Savor small successes. Regardless of how things are going, spend time together doing things that the child enjoys. Build a feeling of success by praising their efforts and providing special rewards when they succeed. This can help offset the days when things don’t go so well.
Developmental Disability Resources For Families
At no cost to you, your ParTNers EAP can identify resources for your child with a developmental disability.
If you have dependents with special needs, you may find it difficult to balance your work, family and social activities. Your ParTNers EAP is a place where you can turn for personalized information and assistance. The work-life services of your EAP are in place and ready to help. Key advantages we offer include:
- Telephonic access 24 hours a day to professional work-life specialists who have education, background and experience in special needs areas, simply call 855.437.3486.
- Personalized referrals to care providers, therapists or community resources—with confirmed, pre-screened openings that meet your child’s unique needs.
- Convenience services to help simplify other aspects of your family life.
We do the legwork to find the services, resources and practical solutions that work for you! Call us, consultants are available Monday – Friday 6:30am – 5:30pm CST.
Remember that your PaTNers EAP is here to help you find balance and set realistic goals. Confidential in-person telephonic counseling is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just call 1.855.Here4TN(1.855.437.3486). The www.HERE4TN.com website also offers a wealth of information and answers to your health and wellness questions.