STRENGTHS AND STRESSES WITH FAMILIES WITH CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS:
AN ECOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVE
ecological perspective looks at families in their environment¾it
looks at the stresses and strengths of the family and the environment, and the
way the family
and the environment interact.Does
the environment meet the family's needs or
does the family fit the environmental expectations?
1.The social world of the family (friends, relatives, neighbors,
supports and others) often referred to as the informal
2.The community resources available to the family (SSI, Medicaid,
Education Programs, Child Welfare, Mental Health, Heath Services, and
others) often referred to as the formal
specific factors to consider when
assessing the strengths and stresses
of families with special needs are:
1.The daily living skills requirements of the child including self-help
the areas of eating, bathing, toileting and mobility.
2.The need for behavior management especially in cases where the
is self-injurious or dangerous to others.Is
the child about to be removed
from school or day care program unless the parent "does something"?
3.The safety needs of the child¾can
the child be left alone unsupervised? Is the child aware of danger and basic safety issues?
4.The medical and health needs of the child¾does
the parent focus on just
keeping the child alive due to complicated and demanding medical problems?Do these medical needs result in frequent crisis?Are health care professionals
really trying to determine if there is an additional medical problem(s) or
they attributing the symptoms to the developmental diagnosis without fully
ruling out other conditions?
5.The ability of the child to relate to the parent¾many
children with special
needs are loving, caring and gratifying children who are responsive to the
parent's actions and needs.Other
children may be non-responsive due to
severe cognitive limitations, sensory limitations or specific diagnostic
6.Cultural factors that may help or hinder the parent through the
process, affect the problem-solving process with regard to the child's
needs and the family's help-seeking behavior.
7.The amount of time, energy and financial resources that are required just
to keep all the appointments with various professionals.Children with developmental disabilities will require at
least one school I.E.P. meeting
8.The family's coping mechanisms¾what
psychological strategies do they
have for coping with expected and unexpected stresses?How do individuals
react and how does the family interact in crisis?Are there concurrent mental
health or substance abuse problems?How
are the siblings doing?
9.The family's informal supports¾what
are their relationships like with
relatives, neighbors, and friends?Is
support being offered and accepted
from churches or parent support groups?
10.The family's financial resources including SSI, Medicaid, private
and income and other forms of assistance.
11.The community resources that are available and accessible¾Is
adequate respite care, are home health care providers reliable, is the
teacher adequately trained, are special transportation, day care, and
after school care programs available?Are professionals non-judgmental?Do
professionals dominate the parent contacts or are they "partners" in
12.An able case manager, most often the parent, who can interface
successfully with the service delivery system providers.Are people working together?
This information may be reproduced
but not altered in any way. Excerpted from the training curriculum,
"Working with Families with Children/Parents with Developmental
Disabilities". Developed by Natasha Green, B.A. and Virginia Cruz,
D.S.W., The Social Work Program, Metropolitan State College of Denver, PO Box
173362, Campus Box 70, Denver, Colorado, 80217. E-mail: Info@DevelopmentalDisability.org