According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), developmental impairments are on the rise among children and young people aged 3 to 17. The recent surveys show that 17% of children this age in the United States have a developmental disability.
Developmental disabilities refer to conditions characterized by impairments in learning, language, behavior, and physical development. These conditions typically begin in early childhood and may continue into adolescence and adulthood.
Every parent wants their children to be healthy, safe, and happy. Learning that your child has a speech-language delay or another diagnosis can sometime have far-reaching consequences for the entire family.
While a diagnosis might help you better understand your child’s condition and seek appropriate treatment, it may take some time for you to adjust to this new reality.
Coming to Terms with Your Child’s Diagnosis
It is normal to experience a range of emotions upon learning that your child has a speech or language delay, hearing loss, autism, or intellectual disability. There is no correct or incorrect way to respond to such a life change.
You may go through a grieving process as you seek the strength to adjust to and manage the obstacles that come with your child’s condition.
Stages of Grief
Grief occurs as a normal reaction to unwanted change. Some parents experience stages of grief. Depending on the diagnosis, you may have constant reminders of things your child is not accomplishing in the same way as others.
Your grief may be triggered again and again when a sibling or peer achieves a particular milestone. You can, however, learn to live with it positively, channeling your energy into action to ensure your child receives the resources available.
Here are some stages you might experience upon receiving a diagnosis.
When you learn of your child’s diagnosis, one of your first thoughts may be, “This has to be a mistake,” “They are wrong, my child cannot have (name their disability”),” or “My child’s fine.”
Denial is typically the first stage of the grieving process. In the immediate aftermath, most people go through a “this isn’t happening to me” stage.
You may refuse to accept your child’s diagnosis and its challenges. This stage aims to protect you from grieving until your brain is ready to absorb the situation.
However, if you stay in this stage for too long, your child may not receive the essential assistance. Keep in mind that you are your child’s primary advocate and source of support.
After the first shock wears off, you may get angry with yourself, with the people around you, with life, etc. Anger is commonly used to mask other painful feelings such as sorrow, shame, guilt, or failure –being angry sometimes seems more manageable than feeling sad or helpless.
You may be beating yourself up for not seeking treatment sooner or noticing that something isn’t quite right on time. Keep in mind that you are doing the right thing by getting the issue looked into or addressing your concern with your child’s pediatrician or school.
During this stage of grief, you may be obsessed with ideas like “If I could trade their health for mine” and similar.
You begin to accept the situation at this stage in the grieving process after learning about your child’s disability or developmental delay.
Accepting your child’s situation is a process that takes time. You may not experience grief, you may experience some of the stages, you may experience stages of grief in a different order. At the end of it, you will be able to understand and accept the situation, realizing that the disability will have a significant impact on you and your family.
This stage of the grieving process has the best chance of turning your sadness into action and getting help for your child.
Obtaining appropriate assistance for children with disabilities, such as early intervention services, special education programs, parent education, or financial support, is critical in assisting children and families.
There is a wide range of normal in child development, and each child develops at their own pace. If your child was diagnosed with a developmental delay, proper intervention can help your child and support you and your family.