Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No One Wants a Disabled Child

It's true.  If any of us heard someone pining for a child with Tourette's, Downs, Spina Bifida, deafness, we'd have them committed.  During the pregnancy, none of us visualize our children in this way.  No one wants a disabled child, but that's what some folks get. 

A child's diagnosis is not a happy event.  Even if the child will live a relatively healthy life, our dreams for that child die.  It hurts.  I was required to have a psyche evaluation by my insurance company a few years back.  The psychiatrist made an interesting observation in his findings.  He told me that I seemed to have coped very well with all of my 'pain' save the most painful one.  His last comment was revealing.  He told me that insofaras dealing with the pain of raising a child with a disability, he had nothing to offer.  He told me if I'd lost a child, through therapy, he could help me move forward from it in time and become better able to cope with it.  For something I "wake up to every day", he freely admitted he had nothing to offer. 

The diagnosis places us at a critical juncture.  The sum total of a parent weighs in the balance.  No one wants a disabled child.  Real parents decide that this child is the one they want.  In the generic, this same parent still doesn't want a disabled child.  In the specific, this parent wants this child, his/her child, as the child is, where the child is.   The level of disability is immaterial.  I've been unfortunate enough to witness both extremes.  I've seen some walk away from beautiful children who have measureable potential.  Other's devote all their energy, time, and and resources to "beat the odds" in seemingly hopeless situations. 

It would seem self-evident that only one path is viable.  Still, I'm stunned at the level of emotional abandonment inflicted on disabled children by parents who "stick it out".  I'm convinced that this is far more damaging than the actual disorder.  I know an autistic boy who clings to me and wants me to hold him every time he sees me.  His father left his mother and refuses to spend time with him.  This "dad" takes their younger daughter on visits, but leaves his son behind.  I honestly can't decide which is harder on him and doing him the most damage.   I’m convinced the hurt of parental rejection never goes away.  On the other hand, I've witnessed "miracles" at the hands of committed, emotionally connected parents.  Their kids often surpass expectations and diagnosis. 

The key here is not getting what we want.  The key to successfully parenting a disabled child is learning to want what we have.