Parenting a Child with Multiple Disabilities
By Katherine Ridolfo
Parenting is challenging at best, however parenting a child with multiple disabilities is exponentially
difficult and can have a profound effect on marital relationships as well as on entire families due to the
many unique and complex needs of the child. Though family and friends are likely sympathetic to your
situation, they cannot fully grasp the challenges you face and the demands placed upon you on a daily
basis. At times it may feel like the household revolves around your child and that you are attending to the
child’s needs around the clock, finding little time for self-care or anything else.
Finding balance is important amid feelings of anxiety, guilt, grief and stress. If you feel that you and your
spouse have drifted apart and the entire focus of your relationship and communication is always about the
care of your child, the most important thing that you can do is to carve out some “couple time” where you
refocus on each other. It is also crucial to consider professional, supportive counselling with a
knowledgeable clinician who has extensive experience in working with trauma, disabilities, autism,
caregiving systems, supports and your unique family dynamics. Emotional support is crucial and it is
important to discuss and acknowledge your emotions and feelings. An experienced clinician will assist
you and your spouse to develop better coping skills in order to deal with some of these emotions, short
and long term planning for yourself and your child, and finding the right resources to support your needs.
He/she will also help you to adjust as a couple/family and help you to define your goals to reflect your
reality as the parents of a child with multiple disabilities.
I currently hold an MSW degree and an undergraduate degree in Disability Studies and I have 35 years of
extensive experience working within the developmental sector, which has given me a rare and intimate
glimpse into the unique dynamics of families who have a child/family member with a disability and the
challenges that they face. Let me help you and your family reach your goals and highest potential.