Evidence on parent peer support

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Parenting Research Center

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Raising a child with special needs can be stressful and isolating. The day-to-day practicalities of care can be emotionally and physically demanding. It also takes time and energy to attend appointments, follow up with therapy at home, advocate for the child, and navigate a complex service system. There can also be financial demands due to therapy or medical expenses, or if the carer must work fewer hours or in a lower paid job.

Parents and carers of children with a disability, a developmental delay, learning difficulties, or other chronic conditions often have to juggle competing needs. The needs of the child must be balanced against the needs of other family members. Carers may have less time and energy for social and leisure activities for themselves.

It can be difficult to take a child with special needs out because of:

  • the child’s physical needs (such as needing a wheelchair)
  •  behaviour that is frustrating to the carer (such as tantrums)
  • behaviour that is unsafe for the child (such as running away).

Parents and carers can feel that their community or family don’t understand their child’s condition. They may feel they have to explain things, or educate people. They may even feel stigma, either because of what other people say or do, or because they are worried about what other people may be thinking.

As a result, these parents and carers may go out less. They may even be excluded from social gatherings. They can feel isolated and lacking in support.

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