Why Are Family Supports Important for People with Disabilities and Their Individual Growth? (by Brittany Devers)

rainbowThe Research Question

How does the state of Oregon assist children with disabilities and their families?

The Research Collection

Burtner, Paul. “Society’s Attitude towards People with Disabilities”. Web. 10 March. 2014

This article explains how far we as society have come in changing the lives for people with disabilities. 50 years ago there was little understanding, medically and socially of people with disabilities. People with disabilities have typically been negatively stereotyped as unhealthy, dangerous, un intelligent etc. and seen as a burden on welfare or a pity case. Today the focus for people with disabilities of people with disabilities is to include them in society and our communities instead of institutionalizing them. Several bill of rights have been passed regarding the disabled. Most recently is the Americans with Disabilities Act which was passed July 26th, 1990 which attempts to guarantee the rights of full inclusion into the mainstream of American life for all persons with disabilities.

Community Living Supports

“Developmental Disability Services about Us.” Developmental Disability Services About Us. Web. 9 Mar. 2014

Often times when having a family member with a developmental disability, the family of the person cannot manage the child alone and would benefit from assistance. This provides an overview on the State of Oregon’s Office of Developmental Disability Services (ODDS) which provides supports and services to children and adults with developmental disabilities that meet eligible for services. Services offered for supporting children with developmental disabilities AND their families in regards to placements and supportive plans.

1. in home family supports is for children who can still safely live at home but require assistance. If eligeable, the children’s service coordinator (a worker from the seniors and People with Disabilities department of DHS) will work with the family to develop a written family support plan. The planning process must be child and family centered. This plan is developed to support the family and child in order to prevent out of home placement. Family support services are flexible and tailored to the needs of each family.

2. Intensive in home supports (IIHS) are supports for children living at home with intense behavior or medical needs. IIHS provides support services for children from birth to age 18 who have a medical condition requiring total assistance with all daily activities, and supports for children who demonstrate intense behaviors that are dangerous to themselves or others

3. 24 hour out of home supports (foster care and residential programs) for children who can no longer live at home. Both foster care and residential programs support children in their treatment, school programs, adult transition planning and maintaining relationships and connection with their families. Foster care is an out of home placement that still provides a home like setting with one family whereas a residential program, although it strives to maintain a home like feel is a licensed home that is part of an agency.

To locate which support is best for a child, the family needs to start with their local Community Developmental Disabilities Program to apply for services. Eligibility depends on the type of support the child needs, as determined by a service coordinator and the family. Once an appropriate level of care if determined the family is asked to provide information in regards to supports and maintain relationships if placed out of home.

Financial Help

“Social Security.” Apply for Disability Benefits. Web. 12 Mar. 2014

This website outlines the Supplemental Security Income and how children with disabilities qualify for income paid by the government. Amounts vary based on placement of the child. If qualified for SSI, children also qualify for the Oregon Health Plan, a state paid insurance at no cost. Qualifying for health care is also a financial relief to families as there are ongoing medical needs and medical treatments needed.

Family coping help and importance of providing assistance to families

Zeitlin, Shirley. Williamson, Gordon G. Rosenblatt, William P. “The Coping with Stress Module: A Counseling Approach for Families with a Handicapped Child. Journal of Counseling and Development.  65. (1987)


 In this article the Coping with Stress Module is looked into and explained. The article explains that it is important for counselors/therapists that work with children with developmental disabilities also work with their families to help parents and other family members learn to cope and adapt to having a special needs child.  Having a child with disabilities can be stressful for family members especially if they do not understand how to work with the child or how to cope with the fact. By teaching coping skills the family can have a positive impact on the child’s outcome and the overall family functioning. The coping with stress module works by identifying four steps, cognitive appraisal, decision making, acting on the decision and an evaluation of the outcome. The module is tested by grouping 32 parents, with children with disabilities and using the module to help families learn, respond and adapt to having a child with a disability. One particular family, the Smiths who originally described themselves as stressed and ineffective with different beliefs and little control over their family, were able to identify resources to help them cope and developed an interest in learning to cope. The module, when used by a therapist or counselor helps the family develop personalized intervention strategies, decrease stress and increase resources, all of which directly benefit the child as well.

Murphy, Nancy. “Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities: The Breaking Point.Journal of Child Neurology.26.8 (2011) 1054-1056


In this article, Nancy Murphy writes that not only are children with a disability subject to challenges with physical and cognitive impairments, they are also at risk for behavioral and emotional problems. This puts a great deal of stress on their parents who care for them, which can lead to a higher risk of child abuse. Children with disabilities are 3 out of 4 times more likely to be abused than children without disabilities. The factors that lead to child abuse are the child, the disability, the family and the environment. Murphy examines those factors and emphasizes that recognizing the caregiver’s or parents needs in important to decrease this risk. In her opinion, providing support to the family is a better approach to the complex care of a child with disabilities, than solely focusing on the need of the child alone.

The Public Writing

Check out Brittany’s own blog and post HERE.


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