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Becoming a parent to a child with disabilities – tears, trials and triumphs

Posted: 03/11/2016

Our experience of representing families of birth-injured children has shown us that being a parent to a child with any significant disability or intellectual impairment can mean tearing up the parenting manual. We have heard from parents how mentally and physically shattering it can be and the impact the child’s injuries may have on the family as a whole.

When a child is born, parents have ambitions of course: “He’s going to be a sportsman” or “She’s going to be a dancer”, for example. A diagnosis of likely delayed physical, emotional or cognitive development must be hugely difficult to comprehend and cope with in the early days. Some parents respond with denial. We have heard of others who have rushed home to google their child’s condition wanting to learn as much about it as possible. The accounts we have received from parents, while talking to them to understand their family dynamics more fully and the realities of day to day life for their injured child, include:

“It was exhausting, he rarely slept, at least not for long. I couldn’t put him down as he would just cry. The only thing which calmed him down was for me to be carrying him, but this made getting anything else done and looking after our other child virtually impossible.”

“Our child (with autism) was extremely sensitive and selective about what he would eat or wear. If something wasn’t exactly right, it could provoke a tantrum and that would set the tone for the day.”

“When we got something wrong, he started lashing out. His behaviour became increasingly difficult to manage and at the worst of times, descended into violence.”

Brain-damaged children are often unable to achieve the usual milestones and parents are required to learn new rules, new terms and, we have been told, new reserves of patience. Getting the care and support for their child can seem like an endless battle and one to somehow be fitted in alongside a regular day job. It can be hugely time-consuming to coordinate all the medical and educational appointments and somehow juggle everything else as well. Parents can end up being ships in the night if they are both trying to work and care for a disabled child. Sadly, we have seen the negative impact this can have on a marriage, but also how well parents can find ways to cope and the levels of dedication and love they show to their children. Being able to resolve a birth injury claim so that compensation is available to fund professional care, adapted accommodation, therapies and equipment makes such a difference to children, enabling them to live as independently as possible and for the family to flourish as a whole.

Keith Stuart, whose son has autism, has written a semi-autographical book relaying his experience of parenthood and autism. His son is now 10 years old, enjoys communicating, reads beautifully, plays the guitar and beats his father at Minecraft! “A Boy Made of Blocks” is an inspirational read for all parents.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP