How Can We BEST Support Families of Students With Special Needs?: SSWNetwork Forum
Hello SSWN friends: This project has been in the works here at SSWN and our SSWNetwork for a while now, and I’m so excited to share more of it with you today. Starting in December and into 2020, all of our current Loyola School Mental Health Advanced Practice Program (SMHAPP) students will be “hosting” a week on our site, sharing information about their SMHAPP project work and responding to critical issues impacting K-12 schools and school mental health practice.
As we move into this last week of January, I’m proud to welcome Gabriela Ibarra Ramirez, a member of the 3rd Loyola SMHAPP cohort, who will be leading discussion and sharing resources on the topic of how schools can provide supportive services to parents of children with special needs. Just as we’ve done before, Gabriela will help us end the week over at SSWNetwork with a LiveChat February 1st from 9 a.m.-10 a.m. central time where we’ll come together to discuss what we learned over the past week. Here in their own words is what she’s going to be doing this week in this “SMHAPP SSWNetwork Forum,” along with her biographical information. Take it away, Gabriela, and we hope to see all of you on Saturday morning for our LiveChat!
My name is Gabriela Ibarra Ramirez and I am a school social worker in Chicago, currently at an early childhood special education school. I’m in the second year of the Loyola University’s School Mental Health Advanced Practice Program (SMHAPP). This school year, I have been implementing a parent support group focusing specifically on parents of children with special needs. The goal of the group has been to understand the unique challenges that parents of children with special needs are facing and to provide them with a variety of supports and resources. The ultimate goal in implementing this group is to decrease the parents’ level of stress. This week, I would like to explore some of the ways in which parents of children with special needs are supported in the school environment. I would like to learn about successful strategies and supports that have been established in schools as well as address some of the challenges that school staff may face when taking on these efforts.
Getting The Conversation Started: What Impact Does Having A Child With A Disability Have On Their Parents’ Stress And Overall Well-Being?
To get the conversation started on the challenges that parents face in raising a child with special needs, I am sharing an article titled: Impact of Child Disability on the Family by Nancy E. Reichman, Hope Corman, and Kelly Noonan. This article was published in 2008 in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. The authors so eloquently summarized the complex stressors that parents face in raising a child with a disability:
“For parents, having a disabled child may increase stress, take a toll on mental and physical health, make it difficult to find appropriate and affordable child care, and affect decisions about work, education/training, having additional children, and relying on public support. It may be associated with guilt, blame, or reduced self-esteem. It may divert attention from other aspects of family functioning. The out-of-pocket costs of medical care and other services may be enormous. All of these potential effects could have repercussions for the quality of the relationship between the parents, their living arrangements, and future relationships and family structure. Having a disabled child may also affect parents’ allocation of time and financial resources to their healthy and unhealthy children, their parenting practices, their expectations of healthy siblings in terms of achievement, responsibility, and short- and long-term contributions to the household, and the siblings’ health and development. Finally, having a disabled child in the family may affect the contributions of time and financial resources on the part of the child’s grandparents or other extended family members, the relationships of those individuals to the core family, and the financial, physical, and emotional well-being of those family members. All of these potential effects on families have implications for the health and well-being of disabled children.” (p. 680)Reichman, N. E., Corman, H. & Noonan, K. (2007, December). Impact of child disability on the family. Maternal & Child Health Journal, 12, 679-683. Please click here to see the article abstract
Starting this week, we will focus on the stressors our parents experience with trying to take care of their children with special needs. First, we will ask you to answer this question over at SSWNetwork: Based on the paragraph excerpt above, how does having a child with a disability impact the parents at your school?
Getting A Sense Of What We Do Already To Support Parents
Next, we will ask you to share your perspective on these questions:
- What kind of supports are provided to the parents of children with special needs in your school?
- Who takes the lead on planning and providing the support?
- What are some benefits or challenges that you have seen?
Interventions To Help Our Parents Manage Their Stress: What Do You Do At Your School That Works?
Next, I will provide a SSWN Research Brief (RB) later this week summarizing this article:
Lindo, E. J., Kliemann, K.R., Combes, B.H. & Frank, J. (2016, February). Managing stress levels of parents of children with developmental disabilities: A meta-analytic review of interventions. Family Relations, 65, 207-224.
And I will then invite everyone to head over to SSWNetwork to share what they’re doing that works to help this special parent population, all capped off with our weekly LiveChat Saturday, February 1st, 9-10 a.m. central, It’s always free to join SSWNetwork–we hope to see you there sharing what you do to help families this week!