Support for Families (page 2)
Help for families who have a child with a disability can be broadly divided into three categories: emotional support, information, and federal government programs. Emotional support for family members of children with mild disabilities begins with the immediate family, branches out to grandfamily members and other relatives, and continues with friends and neighbors. Professional support agencies complement "grassroot" networks by providing information and services that train families to help themselves. The stronger their support system, the more capable the family will be in coping with the daily stresses of raising a child with a disability.
Federal programs are primarily targeted at low-income families. Poverty continues to play a significant role in the development of mild disabilities, particularly mild mental retardation and behavior disorders. Children without adequate nutrition and health care are at-risk populations. Environmental threats to normal development include heavy-metal poisoning, child abuse, child neglect, community violence, lack of proper educational experiences at home, and drug abuse. Government programs, when funded properly, can prevent and/or remediate medical and environmental conditions that contribute to mild disabilities.
Support groups help family members cope with isolation. When family members have an opportunity to discuss their problems with other family members of children with disabilities, they learn they are not alone. Over the years, many self-help, support groups for family members have sprung up in local communities. Sometimes leadership for these groups comes from local professionals; more often family members themselves are the organizers.
Support groups provide family members with an emotional lifeline as they discover that others share their experiences. When family members talk to family members, a sense of comradeship supplants feelings of loneliness and isolation. The Federation of Families for Children's 'dental Health, for example, has assisted many family-run organizations in getting started (Bullock & Gable, 1997). Support groups also help family members learn how to use their int1uence to get the best educational services for their children. Many school systems haw family member advisory councils. These advocacy groups are comprised of family members with disabled children and representatives from the local educational agency. They meet on a regular basis to discuss issues pertaining to delivery of special education services in their community. How much influence a family member advisory council has is largely determined by the political activism of member family members. Some typical activities of a family member advisory council include regular review of special education policy in their school system, dissemination of information to family members of special needs children, and the writing of grants to improve educational services for children with disabilities.
Recent federal legislation has enabled family member-organized groups to develop a national networking system. A federal grant program to support organized family member efforts to provide information and training is the Federation for Children with Special Needs (www.fcsn.org). The purpose of the federation is to disseminate information regarding special needs to family members and families.
The National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY, www.nichcy.org) provides educational information and technical assistance to family members, advocates, and professionals. NICHCY maintains a collection of resource publications and fact sheets that help family members locate assistance in their local communities. Since 1922, the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC, www.cec.sped.org) has provided both family members and professionals with support services, including national and regional conferences, journals, and political activism on behalf of children with disabilities. While CEC provides support activities for all types of disabling conditions, other national organizations provide support services for families of children with specific disabilities. Chapters of the Learning Disabilities Association (www.ldanatl.org) and Association for Retarded Citizens exist throughout the country (www.thearc.org). These organizations provide family members with information on recent developments in research and teaching children with specific impairments. Family members or educators who wish to contact any of these organizations can get the necessary information from websites and state department of education offices.
Many organizations and agencies are eager to help support families, yet each year countless family members struggle alone, unaware of the support network that is available to help them. By providing family members with names of local and regional support agencies, teachers can help ensure that their classroom efforts are complemented by help outside of school. Mild disabilities are more than just a school problem; learning disabilities, mild emotional disorders are family problems. When families are supported at home, children with special needs have a better opportunity to overcome their intellectual disability in school and in the community.
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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