Hearing the diagnosis for the first time of developmental disability can be a significant part of any parent or caregiver’s life. Many emotions begin running through their heads, people begin planning things for the future. “They’ll never be able to have a “normal” life.”
Sometimes people enter a grief period where they grieve their expectation of parenthood. Not only the parents, but the siblings can also feel this grief of not having a “normal” sibling. Feeling like they cannot bring friends home because of a fear of being rejected by peers or that their identity will become “so and so’s sibling.”
With all of these difficult feelings, sometimes they can go unnoticed because the brunt of the family’s energy goes toward loving and caring for their loved one with developmental disabilities. Many families do not have the energy at the end of the day to take care of themselves.
My role is to give you a time and space to process thoughts and feels as well as work towards your goals while also keeping in mind your loved one(s) with developmental disabilities. I believe that one of the best ways of helping your loved one with developmental disabilities is learning how to help yourself so that you are equipped to help your loved one. I like the metaphor of the emergency oxygen masks in air planes; we are advised to put one on ourselves before putting them on our children. How often do we forget that sentiment in our everyday lives? We need to have the energy and means to help. I’ve heard accounts of people beginning to “run on fumes” and that becomes their norm. Many people begin to forget resources that are available to them during this hustle.
It is not solely the families that can be affected, but those that work with people with developmental disabilities as well. There are many nuanced thoughts and behaviors that go into caring for people with developmental disabilities and it can take a toll on those who care or teach them. Sometimes, teachers and caregivers do not think about themselves when working with people with developmental disabilities.
If parents would like support, I can help facilitate the conversation with a neurotypical child around their sibling with an Intellectual Disability. It can seem like a tricky conversation to have with a sibling from the parent’s point of view. When do you bring it up, how do you talk about it, will they understand? If you would like support on navigating this conversation, I can help.
These stressors, if not acknowledged can come back and affect not only the individual, but their loved ones too. Sometimes we need to talk to someone, or work through something that has happened in order for us to flourish, and in turn, help someone else flourish.
If you would allow me, I would like to join you on your journey.
Here is a google doc with some resources that I’ve found. If you have any that I haven’t listed, feel free to send them to me through an email.
Mark Holt LMFT-Associate