Posted by Angie Balsley on 1/10/2020 7:00:00 AM
In my previous article titled “The Difficult Parent,” I shared that educators not only support children with disabilities, but also the PARENTS of children with disabilities. In consideration of our duty as professional educators to also support the parents of our students, I’ve written this article to bring awareness to the emotions that parents of children with disabilities may experience. Through a better understanding these emotions, educators can be more prepared to support parents on the complex journey that is special education.
All parents experience a range of emotions as they raise their children. According to research, parents of children with disabilities may also experience cyclical grief. Cyclical grieving is described as an intermittent reoccurrence of one or more emotions that are part of the grieving process (Blaska, 1998). In the abstract to his study which was conducted to understand parents’ perceptions of raising a child with disabilities, Blaska states that “the emotions (both mothers and fathers) felt included: disappointment, sadness or depression; loneliness, fear; anger; frustration; shock; devastation; numbness, unsureness, and feeling trapped and sorry for the child. Events that triggered grieving included: health or behavioral issues; developmental milestones or age appropriate expectations; family issues and relationships; aged parents and retirement concerns; unusual caretaking demands; professional and programmatic issues; society’s lack of understanding and sensitivity; and seemingly insignificant events” (1998). In his summary, Blaska also notes that parents “also report positive experiences with their children and stress their deep love and concern for them” (1998).
The bold text above was intentionally added to illustrate the connection between the triggers of cyclical grief and the IEP case conference processes and developmental milestones that naturally occur at school. In discussing the implications of his study for professionals, Blaska states that “professionals need the knowledge to understand parents and the skills to help them refocus their shattered dream and begin dreaming new dreams while remaining positive and hopeful” (1998). In my next article, I will discuss how educators can employ empathy as a means for supporting parents.
Dr. Angie Balsley, Executive Director