Coping With A Mentally Challenged Child
A video I saw recently on the internet sparked an interest in me to write this article. Accordingly, a father of a child suffering from severe autism was explaining how he managed to treat his daughter’s condition and give her a new lease on life.
When asked whether he had ever felt of giving up during the course of her training, he had only one reply, ‘I couldn’t give up on a kid’!
Almost all of us harbor dreams of giving birth to and raising perfectly normal children who would make a name for themselves and for us in the future. And so, when the doctor utters those dreaded words, ‘I am sorry, but your child is different’, the first reaction that engulf us is shock; followed by utter disbelief.
‘Why me?’, you would probably ask! And it’s not your fault for asking that question either. For bringing up a child whom you know would never be able to play with you, learn everything you teach him (or her), or even emote his (or her) feelings properly, would most probably be a Herculean task which would drain you off, both physically and emotionally.
And yet, when you look into those eyes that seemingly struggle to erupt in a flow of emotions behind several inner barricades, you know you can’t let go or give up. It is with this inspirational note that I go ahead and give some useful pointers for parents who are presently in a similar situation.
What parents overlook:
Mentally challenged children are not always born with the ailment. While some kids face these issues from birth, other kids tend to develop them later on. As a parent, you need to be extremely obervant of your kid’s physical and mental health as he (or she) grows up.
Don’t ignore symptoms that might turn out to be harmful later on. For example, if you find your kid not being receptive to normal conversations or gestures, you need to check with your doctor about the issue immediately. Abnormal behaviors are tell tale signs of impending issues; and need to be checked out if your kid keeps on repeating them.
Don’t label him (or her):
I have heard many parents say ‘mentally retarded’ when discussing about their kid’s ailment to others. Don’t use that word! It would only make you more sorrowful of the fact that your kid is not normal. Alternatively, you can use the term ‘mentally challenged’ to make the term sound more soothing instead of prickly.
Some parents tend to think that a mentally challenged child would be a cause of embarrassment for them in the long run; and so tend to hide these facts from others until it is too late. Never do this! There is a very strong possibility that your kid could get cured if he (or she) is treated by a professional early on in her childhood. So don’t shy away from revealing about your kid’s health issues to others around you. Possibly, someone in your close group of friends or family members would know someone you can refer to for possible treatment.
Come to terms with the truth:
The first blow is always the hardest one to face. When your doctor diagnoses your kid with a mental disorder that would most probably last his (or her) lifetime, the sudden introduction to the ailment would definitely leave you stunned.
However, this would be the right time to focus on the future instead of lamenting about why it happened to you of all people. Sit down and give some time for your body and mind to relax. Come to terms with the fact that your child would be different from other kids and would need extra care and affection; things you should be willing to dish out in abundance.
Constraints you would need to face:
Instead of blaming each other for what has happened, sit down with your spouse (and most probably a close circle of friends or family members) and discuss about what needs to be done. Raising a mentally challenged child is not an easy task and would require tons of love, attention, time and effort.
A mentally challenged child would tend to be dependent on you for even the most basic of tasks. These may include walking, eating, diapering, bathing and clothing to name a few. And as your kid grows older, these tasks tend to become burdensome and downright exasperating at times.
In addition to this, your child would most definitely require constant monitoring (apart from the time he/she is sleeping). All of this could place undue stress on your body and mind with time.
In addition to the physical and emotional strain of caring 24/7 for your child, you need to take a lot of other important points into consideration; the foremost one being the cost involved in taking care of your kid.
These include medical supplies, medical care, health care appointments, specialized learning equipments, care giving expenses, private education and adaptive tutoring to name a few. In addition to this, you need to understand the fact that if the diagnosis is permanent, you would need to set aside money for these continuous costs. You would also need to keep some money aside for him (or her) (probably in a trust fund) for future use.
Just because your kid is mentally challenged does not mean that he (or she) cannot enjoy the normal education other kids have. In his (or her) case, you would want to start teaching and training as soon as possible for long term results.
Check for private institutions in your area that cater to ‘special children’. Usually, these schools would have appropriate transportation facilities (like buses or vans) that would help your kid commute to and from school. There would also be professional helpers and skilled educators who would be able to find out your child’s potential and make him (or her) use the same for a seemingly better future.
That he (or she) is going to a special school does not give you enough reason to go about your chores and forget about his (or her) progress, leaving the same to the school authorities. Your kid needs you more than anyone else. And so you need to make it a point to keep in touch with the school at a regular basis, ask for constant updates on his (or her) progress and train him (or her) on your part at home. Only with constant and repetitive training would he (or she) show improvement over the years.
Love is all that it takes to get through:
Mentally challenged kids find it very difficult to emote well or express their needs. And so, most parents tend to keep them away from the public eye by not taking them out, or keeping them locked up in a room when someone visits them.
Make note of the fact that your kid needs your love and attention just like any other normal kid would. And so it is your duty to provide a secure environment for him (or her) to grow up in rather than keeping him (or her) behind closed doors all the time.
Shower him (or her) with all your attention and affection. Take him (or her) out regularly without feeling awkward or embarrassed about what others would think. Make him (or her) socialise with your friends and family members as much as possible. This would enable him (or her) to try and come out of his (or her) cocoon; which in turn would help immensely in his (or her) overall improvement.
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