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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 5, Lesson 1

Extended Family

When looking at families in the Early Steps system, the importance of the extended family can't be overlooked. The extended family may offer the family support in many ways - financially, emotionally and physically. They can provide encouragement, respite, support and representation at meetings. They are often the only individuals with whom the parents feel safe entrusting the care of their children. They include blood relatives as well as close family friends. Today, many grandparents are raising their grandchildren. In many cultures, the extended family plays a vital role in the family ecosystem. If the extended family is important to the family with whom you work, make sure you understand their role in the family system and how to work with them.

Reflect back on pages 1 to 6 in Our Journey with Families: Service Delivery in Natural Environments in Rural Areas Do you think the extended family was important to Isabel and Ramon?


brother holding new baby Brothers and sisters are also very significant in the lives of children with disabilities and are, in turn, affected by them. The stress the family is under can spill over into their relationships with their parents. If their siblings have severe disabilities or behavior issues, much of their parents' time and energy can be spent on the child with a disability, leaving limited opportunities for the other children. Unless relationships are brought into some type of balance, the siblings of children with disabilities can feel unsupported during crucial times in their own lives. This is a place where extended family members can play an important role. There are many programs and support groups for siblings of children with disabilities. It is noteworthy that many children cite the advantages of growing up with a brother or sister who had a disability. They learn tolerance and compassion at an early age and often provide their sibling with the normalcy of a relationship, taking the lead in involving them in community activities.

Access and read pages 7 to 10 of the resource bank document, Our Journey with Families: Service Delivery in Natural Environments in Rural Areas

How important do you think Billy is in the family dynamics and interactions with Kim?


baby playing in swimming pool Although professionals often focus on mothers of children with disabilities, fathers play an important role in the lives of their children. How they interact with their children is often the result of how they were raised as males in the culture in which they grew up. Fathers may have different ways of coping with stress than do mothers. Men tend to internalize their feelings and, if they cannot communicate intense feelings about having a child with special needs to their wives, tensions can occur as they express these feelings in other ways. The friction caused by these differences can add greater stress to the couple's relationship. If the result is a divorce, the issues and stressors facing the single-parent/primary caregiver can be exacerbated when one or more of the children have a disability. At other times, the problems couples face together around their child's disability can strengthen the marriage and improve communication. All these factors are inter-related and can affect your role as an Infant Toddler Developmental Specialist (ITDS) as you are building your relationship with the child and the family.


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