Stigma is the biggest challenge for parents with PwD children

12 May 2024 12:30pm
Photo for illustration purposes only.
Photo for illustration purposes only.

SHAH ALAM - The biggest challenge for parents of children with disabilities is dealing with societal stigma and negative perceptions.

People might feel uneasy around their children because they are different, which makes it hard for them to fit in.

Parenting a child with disabilities can be really tough, especially because families often have to deal with unfair judgments and face misunderstandings from society.

These harmful patterns needed to be broken to enable parents and families to live fulfilling lives and most importantly to nurture an environment where persons with disabilities (PwD) children could explore and learn about the world without any barriers.

By eradicating these biases, it will not only foster growth and progress of PwD children, but also alleviate the emotional burden on parents, allowing them to thrive as empowered advocates and caregivers within a supportive and inclusive community.

Sharifah Rahmah, a 36-year-old stay-at-home mother with three children, two of whom have disabilities, emphasised that stigma presented the greatest challenge for parents of PwD children, as their children often struggled to fit into society due to their differences, which could make others uncomfortable.

"Raising special needs children comes with many difficulties, but the most emotionally devastating aspect is when people speak negatively about us.

"Labels such as 'retarded child', criticism of parental teaching, accusations of having a violent or unintelligent child, or suggestions that our challenges are karmic punishment for past sins are distressingly common.

Related Articles:

"However, thanks to increasing awareness on social media, society is becoming more inclusive and understanding. We (Sharifah and her husband) felt compelled to educate others about our children's conditions so that they are aware of and accept our children's presence," she said.

Sharifah highlighted that it was crucial that misconceptions about excluding PwD children from society were dispelled.

Sharifah Rahmah and her family.
Sharifah Rahmah and her family.

"Instead, we should actively integrate them into social settings as frequently as possible to foster a more inclusive world for minorities like us.

"By exposing our children to society, they can learn to cope and adapt to their surroundings, encouraging broader acceptance within our communities.

"Rather than leaving them behind, we involve our children in specific occasions such as family gatherings, events and restaurant outings, while adhering to guidelines such as avoiding peak hours, crowded areas and high-risk places to minimise inconvenience to others.

"Before leaving home, we ensure all necessary preparations are made to prevent any potential challenges," she added.

Sharifah said over time, she learnt that effective communication was key to acceptance.

"Without clear communication, the journey can be lonely and disheartening. However, with good communication, many people are willing to offer assistance.

"For instance, other parents may allow their children to interact with special needs children under supervision at playgrounds.

"Our close family and relatives are willing to help care for and play with our children while we eat and catch up. This support network is invaluable in our journey toward inclusivity and understanding," she added.

More Like This