The Psychosocial Variables Associated with the Parenting a Child having Special Needs
The present paper explore the psychosocial variables associated with the parenting a child having
special needs and a child having no special needs. Parenting a child with Autism spectrum disorder
differs from parenting a child with Intellectual Disability. This both types of parenting differs totally
from the parenting a typical child. This paper explains possible challenges in parenting a special child
who is incapable of attaining the skill requisites needed for a child of his age.
Key words: parenting, autism, intellectual disability, neurotypical
For typical children, parenting experiences are shared by other parents whereas a unique parenting
challenge is faced by the parents of special children. Mobility and Inclusion of the parents as well
as children are affected many a times. Even though careful analysis often reveals abilities, habitual
tendency to perceive the disabilities from society’s part often hinders effective normalization and
proper rehabilitation. All impose severe identity crisis and role restrictions even in knowledgeable
parents.. In some conditions, as in the case of physical challenges, the child needs physical reassurance
and support from the parents as against those conditions of cognitive deficits in which the demands
are always parent’s constant attention and feedback. As far as autism is concerned, the child’s deficits
are many namely social, emotional, communicational, sensual, as well as behavioral.
According to DSM 5, Autism spectrum, also known as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or autism
spectrum condition (ASC), is a range of neuro developmental disorders that includes autism and related
conditions. Individuals on the spectrum present with two types of symptoms: problems in social
communication and social interaction, and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities.
Symptoms are usually identified between one and two years of age. Long term problems may include
difficulties in creating and keeping relationships, maintaining a job, and performing daily tasks.
Here the parents have to constantly shift their focus across these domains so as to make the child lighter
and better. Here the parenting stress is not solely due to the management of child’s behavior. But it is due
to the financial requirements, social requirements, inter personal requirements and socio demographic
requirements posited for the activity.
In Everyday Advocate: Standing up for your child with Autism, Areva Martin points out seven
principles that should be applied for the parents having a child with autism spectrum disorder .These
are taking the responsibility and becoming the leader, learn to be an expert, think critically and be
discern, speak with authority and be proactive, document and be prepared ,collaborate and be a team and
finally educate and be the voice of the child.
Both parenting stress and perceived parenting stress are higher for the parents with ASD children. Even
though in most of the studies no difference were found between the parents of ID and ASD children on
parenting stress, much higher a difference was found between these groups and parents of typical
children. Perceived parenting stress and quality of life of the mothers of special children were compared
with that of the mothers of typical children (Kalarani KS, Dr Raakhee AS, Reshma SS) and found that
perceived parenting stress was higher for special child’s mother where as within group differences were
not significant ie between the mothers of children with ASD and ID. In quality of life, special and
typical mothers differed in physical aspect at 5 percent level. Depression, Anxiety and Marital discord
are often reported as outcomes of disability stress.Contextual factors associated with
enhanced parental mood was studied by Colin G. Pottie et al and found that emotional and instrumental
supports improved the moods but unsupportive aspects as well as child behavior which is disruptive
depressed the mood.
Perceived stress often influence the coping. Stress dealing varies with respect to individual
competencies, environmental resources, immediacy, multiplicity and chronicity of the events. Difference
in the stress perception can either be due to the differences in the psychological make up or be due to
the importance given to the stress. Mediating factors often are financial and a feeling of control
over the event.
Parenting stress will be higher during initial stages of diagnosis when’ ambiguous loss’ emerges and the
five stages of coping accompanies. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance all can be noted.
If parents, for some reason or another could not come out of the denial, could find difficult in
complying with the ongoing treatment and evaluations. On the other hand, if they accept the condition,
interventions, secondary preventions and rehabilitations could sooner be initiated. Depression and
anxiety are often noted among the parents of ID and ASD. Lack of awareness, lack of resources and
lack of effective social networks breed depression. For parents of ID children, as they are aware of the
incapacitating condition of the child, and as the child could reciprocate to at least a minimum level,
the possibility of developing an emotional bond with the child still exists. This less happens with a
child with ASD. According to DSM 5, Intellectual Disability, is a developmental problem characterized
by impairment in intelligence and adaptive behavior. Intelligence Quotient will be below 70.As in
Autism Spectrum disorder, where we have low functioning, moderate functioning and high functioning
autism, there are gradations of adaptivity like mild, moderate, severe and profound in Intellectual
disability also. So parenting aspects also varies across these continuums. Parenting is demanded even
more than twenty four hours. Here time management and roles managements are compromised.
Relationship issues are often reported by some but some reports new and strong bonding with the partner
because of the disabled child.
Parenting so called normal children requires usual parenting skills like being a good model,
managing one’s own emotions, being an authoritative parent, inculcate moral skills, responsibility
skills ,social and emotional skills and so on. Identity dilemma would be more for the parents of special
children as, the self differentiation of parent from the child is happening slow (psychological theories)
Interview reports of mothers of thirty special children (Kalarani KS, Dr Raakhee SS), reveals that
majority of the ASD mothers hopes that their child could one day at least communicate with them. Most
of the ID mothers hope their child could take care of themselves. Even though most of the mothers did
not report a perceived stress in parenting, many of them shared anxiety’s and worries about their
child’s future and a lack of earning for themselves. On the other hand typical children’s mothers worry
were around their child’s higher studies, behavior nuances and problems with attaining jobs.
Cultural variations do affect disability to some extent. In some cultures women considered responsible
for giving birth to a child who is disabled. In the studies which compared both parent’s stress
levels, mothers scored more. Some other studies also shows that not only did the partner support
decreased the perceived parenting stress but also increased the quality of life. This is true for the
typical children’s parents as well.
The gender of the disabled child influence the stress as reported by some studies but other studies don’t
support the hypothesis.