Research Paper: Heward Reference Is a Book

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[. . .] Such ambivalence could develop when the parents realize that the child's disability may be permanent, as they explore the different options the child can follow for dealing with the disability, or as they begin to contemplate how the disability will affect the future for both the child and for the family. Ferguson (2002) also notes that educators often present the parents of children recently diagnosed the disability with enormous amounts of information, requirements, suggestions, etc. that are presented with very little explanation or justification for their relevance to the particular child and parents are required to consult with many different types of educators, physicians, counselors, social workers, etc. This overload of information and the need for special considerations often results in a perspective of ambivalence by the parents that as a sort of defense mechanism to protect them from becoming emotionally overburdened.

Bostrom, Broberg, and Hwang (2010) analyzed the perspectives of the parents of nine children regarding their reactions to the recent of the diagnosis of disabilities in the children. Disabilities diagnosed in the children varied ranging from autism to spinal muscular dystrophy. In contrast to grief and affective descriptions they also found that some parents expressed predominantly negative descriptions of child with indications of ambivalence, resistance or distance towards the child suggesting that the notion of ambivalence as a defense mechanism was supported.

Ambivalence may be temporary or chronic. Ambivalence and related perspectives such as apathy, feelings of being overwhelmed, helplessness, etc. can be very difficult to recognize and lead to helping the child and parent receive the optimum effective intervention and care. There it is important that these perspectives be identified and steps taken to help the parent achieve a sense of control and optimism regarding the child (Ferguson, 2002).


According to Ferguson (2002) often parents will take the perspective that despite the diagnosis of a disability the child is still much like any other child except that there are special obstacles or circumstances to deal with. For these parents the particular disability or special requirements are simply part of the overall pattern of needs that any child may require. Often some parents do not experience significant grief or ambivalence but simply approach the diagnosis of a disability and their child with an attitude of diligence to making sure that they can help optimize their child's educational experiences and therefore are often very hopeful about their child's future. Such parents often become quite involved in their child's education and may work closely with the child's teachers, physicians, tutors, etc. To ensure that the child has every opportunity possible.

Bostrom, Broberg, and Hwang (2010) found this type of perspective was very common in their sample of parents recently learning that their child had a disability. Most of the parents gave balanced and affectionate descriptions newly diagnosed child characterized by such perceptions as a balanced description of the child's positive and negative characteristics, but most often emphasizing the positive characteristics; describing the child as an individual, describing well-functioning routines and parent -- child interactions; and positive and affectionate/loving descriptions off the child.

Barnett, Clements, Kaplan-Estrin, and Fialka (2003) believe that often the optimism is actually a recovery process following a period of grief or ambivalence that consists of rebuilding, updating, and replacing the hopes and expectations the parents possessed prior to learning of the child's disability diagnosis. Borrowing from the research and theories of human attachment, loss, and caregiving this perspective places an emphasis on a process of initial grief and then reorganization of belief. The parents initially experience grief regarding their expectations and images of anticipated or hoped for experience of child development when they are faced with a new disability diagnosis in their child and in order to move forward they have to let go of these old expectations or beliefs as to how things should be. This requires the parents to develop a schema of their child's actual capabilities in contrast to what they originally imagined or wished for. This new schema allows the parents to respond realistically and more sensitively to their child's needs, thereby promoting a much more secure and positive relationship with the child. For many parents the process begins with grief resembling bereavement and eventually moves to a more realistic and optimistic understanding of the disability and how the parent will help the child to adjust to the demands of their disability. Nonetheless, optimism in any form is not an uncommon perspective in parents who have a child recently diagnosed with a disability.

Other Factors Affecting the Parents' Perspective

There are several additional factors that can potentially influence the perspective of the parents of the child with the newly diagnosed disability. Of course one factor is the type of disability involved. For instance, the perspective of parents that have a child diagnosed with a reading disability while the child is in grade school will very likely be quite different than that of parents who learn that their child is blind when the child is only two months of age (Barnett et al., 2003).

An important factor that can influence the parental perspectives on the disability diagnosis is the manner in which the information about the disability is related to them (Ferguson, 2000). If the information is presented in a cold, clinical, distant manner with disregard for the parents' potential emotional reaction or without any regard for their level of understanding the response to such new news can be quite negative. This can be an effective determine it even for disabilities that are normally not considered severe. It is important for clinicians and other professionals to provide the information in an empathetic manner and also to be able to explain the information to the level of the parents. In addition, it is important to point out the positive aspects of potential interventions as opposed to concentrating on negative aspects of the diagnosis. When relaying information to parents it is important to allow for plenty of time in order to discuss their child's disability status with them and all the potential options. Cultural factors are also quite influential on the perspective of parents who have a child with the newly diagnosed disability (Obiakor, 2007). For instance, certain conditions that are considered disabilities and Western cultures may be considered spiritual phenomena in other cultures. As an example, consider the notion that some Eastern cultures may view a particular disability as evidence that the child is paying for some transgression that occurred in a previous life. In other cultures a child diagnosed with a disability may be considered to be a reflection on the whole family as opposed to an individual situation. Cultural factors may also determine the perspective of dealing with a disability in the child. Some cultural beliefs may not motivate parents to find cures or to seek interventions for the disability. Thus, it is important to understand the cultural background of the parents and to listen to the family members regarding their perspective on what the disability means.

The resources of the parents including such things as income, social economic status, access to financial support, etc. are also important factors that can affect the parental response to a child diagnosed with a disability (Lott, 2003). If the parents believe that they have the necessary resources to be able to provide the best opportunities or support services for the child they are less likely to adopt a negative perspective or experience grief or ambivalence regarding the new diagnosis. However, when the parents believe that their child would be assisted by some particular type of intervention such as tutoring, some specific type of electronic device or a technology (e.g., a computer), or even some surgical procedure and the parents believe that they cannot access the intervention or provide the needed support they are more likely to experience grief or frustration. In some cases they may also become quite ambivalence regarding their child's new diagnosis.

Related to above factor is family size. It appears that in larger families with many supportive relatives that are accessible or live in the same community as the child with the new disability diagnosis the stress of the new diagnosis may be greatly reduced. This can occur through a strong network of relatives or in some cases a strong network of friends and neighbors who can help support the family (Barnett et al., 2003).

Thus it is clear from the literature that there are several different categories of perspectives that occur in parents who have a child recently diagnosed with a disability. Traditional stage models of grief or bereavement may not adequately or realistically represent these possible perspectives. In addition, other factors such as cultural issues, the method in which the information is relayed to the parents, and the parents' perception of their support system and their ability to adapt to the new situation can also have a major influence on their perspective.


Barnett, D., Clements, M., Kaplan-Estrin, M.,… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Research Paper:

APA Format

Heward Reference Is a Book.  (2013, October 9).  Retrieved June 26, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Heward Reference Is a Book."  9 October 2013.  Web.  26 June 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Heward Reference Is a Book."  October 9, 2013.  Accessed June 26, 2019.