Sunday, July 11, 2010

Journal Review

Below is a journal review I've just completed. If you'd be interested in reading the article, I've provided the info with the introduction.

The article I chose to review, Dysfunctional Families of the Student with Special Needs, volume 25, number 5, written January 1993, by Debbie Daniels-Mohring and Rosemary Lambie, gives a glimpse at several characteristics that may exist in families of children with disabilities. By recognizing these characteristics, educators are able to place realistic expectations on the family as well as create a bond between the family and school.

When a child is diagnosed with a disability, changes usually take place within a family. Parents may focus extra time and energy on the child with special needs, as well as ask siblings to help with the child or make accommodations for the child in the family. Professionals may also create a change by becoming more intimately woven into the family life as well as in the decision making. Families may feel stigmatized as a result of the child’s diagnosis which may lead to feelings of isolation. Families may also feel out of control of their lives while giving all control over to professionals such as medical personnel and educators.

Changes and adaptations within a family are normal when faced with the diagnosis of a disability; however, a problem arises when a family becomes frozen in a particular moment of life, rather than growing and changing with a family as a whole. A child’s independence may be compromised, siblings may become resentful, as well as the child with special needs may feel isolated and/or incomplete. When working with a child with a disability who also exhibits difficulty adjusting to the classroom demands, it may be logical to look for certain characteristics within the family, such as: dysfunctional family boundaries, over protectiveness,
a lack of conflict resolution, parental asymmetry, and martial relationships that are subordinate to parental roles.

Dysfunctional family boundaries may be seen when a child who has physical disabilities is subjected to medical interventions that disrupt his/her daily routines which can also lead to a lack of privacy, such as a child who needs help dressing and/or meeting other personal needs. A child with a behavioral disorder may have enmeshed boundaries where the parent speaks for the child and uses speech such as “we” instead of “I.” Parents may feel overprotective of their child, limiting his/her natural desire for independence, as well as sheltering a child from consequences that would normally occur from his/her behavior within school. Some families may have difficulty expressing their wants and needs as well as disregarding certain emotions such as anger. Children who aren’t encouraged to express disagreement within the family will usually express their conflicts through physical discomfort. Parents may also experience disagreement on issues regarding school achievement, discipline, and even severity of a disability. At times one parent may take on more of the caretaker role which leaves the other parent under involved, which then can lead to resentment and lack of communication within the family.

With the understanding of the multitude of patterns that can exist within a family, it’s important for educators to ask questions in regards to the family life. Information such as the number and ages of siblings, the parents’ work status, as well as the involvement of extended
family, may help to bring understanding of the family situation as well as build collaboration between the school and family, meeting needs when and if they arise.

As an educator, I’m now more aware of certain characteristics that may present themselves to a family when a child is diagnosed with a disability. I found the article to be informative, with several examples of how certain stressors can cause difficult times between parents, their children, and others within their lives. There are also examples of how to help families when they do reach a crisis point, removing my own judgment and instead replacing my ideas with understanding and cooperation towards families.

In closing, the article was insightful, helpful, easy to read and follow the examples set forth within it, and I look forward to reading more from Focus On Exceptional Children as well as sharing this information and source with my co-workers and other families.

sidenote: posting this out into the public, really made me feel uncomfortable. I'm coming to understand I have a great deal to learn about families and how I, as an educator, will come to interact with them.
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