A 2012 National Health Interview Survey reported that nearly 1 in 12 (about 8 percent) children ages 3-17 were diagnosed with a disorder related to voice, speech, language, or swallowing in the past 12 months (“Quick Statistics About Voice, Speech, Language,” 2015). Speech and language disorders are prevalent, affecting between 3 and 16 percent of U.S. children in total (Rosenbaum et al., 2016). And while you think of these children, we must also consider their parents, caregivers, and families. Research shows that when a child is diagnosed with a communication disorder, family members often are confused and in shock. They are not prepared for the challenges associated with a long-term communication disorder, and family-focused resources are not readily accessible. The sense of loss related to the diagnosis may provoke a grief reaction, which, if not resolved, could lead to depression and other problems for the family and the child (Friehe, Bloedow, & Hesse, 2003).
One of the main goals for Elevated Speech is to work closely with mental health professionals to aid caregivers and parents through support groups and workshops. My mission is to collaborate with a mental health professional to help parents and caregivers empower themselves to be a part of their child’s education and personal life in a way that they will be able to accept who their unique child is and present him/her to the world. The family of a child with exceptional needs has to find unique ways to connect with the child. If you see a fruit, then there must be a tree. I desire to seek more effective ways to help the tree (parent/caregivers) give better fruits (child with exceptional needs).
SLPs, always remember to empathize with your parents and caregivers. In my career, I have realized that the major source of lack of motivation from parents and caregivers usually stems from feeling overwhelmed and confused. While increasing the communication needs of our clients with communication disorders, we should also seek to connect families that feel disconnected due to a lack of understanding and awareness regarding their loved ones’ exceptional needs. With this group, parents and caregivers are placed in the unique position to deal with an issue that they didn’t prepare to deal with. They have to research and receive training in disciplines that they don’t practice themselves. They didn’t go through a master’s program to become a speech-language pathologist or mental health professional, yet, they have to learn how to apply the techniques and strategies we’ve spent years learning about. While doing this, they still have to continue to balance their personal lives. Parents and caregivers are forced to deal with anger, denial, and then acceptance; sometimes acceptance with resentment. We realize that this process of coping and balancing is also considered a stage of grief and mourning. They are mourning for the experience or encounter they thought they would have with the child or loved one, they now have to uniquely care for.
I am always empathetic with my parents and caregivers because I am only dealing with their family member one to two days out of the week, but they have to cope and deal with that individual every day. Parents and caregivers, we are here for you. If you are battling shock, grief, depression, resentment or other misunderstood emotions, please seek a mental health professional or support group. Don’t battle this on your own. Here at Elevated Speech, we have resources and options available to you. Please contact us with any questions or concerns.