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Disabilities

Definition And Prevalence, Impact Of Disabilities On Families, Family Response To Disabilities, Programs And Interventions


Disability does not just happen to an individual; it happens to the whole family. Disability affects families in many different ways, depending on the type of disability, the age of the person, and the type of family. Disability does not go away like acute illness does. It is always there; it is chronic. It changes the life course of the family as a unit and often changes the life course of some family members. Reciprocally, how the family responds to the disability and its challenges affects the life course and development of the person with the disability. Some families cope and adapt very well; they even become stronger by learning to live with disability. Other families struggle and experience more problems when they are not able to discover FIGURE 1
The impact of disability on the family and the family's response to the disability are part of a continuous cycle of effects.
the resources they need to manage. These two perspectives—the impact of disability on the family and the family's response to the disability—are part of a continuous cycle of effects. These effects are diagrammed in Figure 1.

This way of thinking about the reciprocal effects of the disability on the family and the family on the person with disability is called a family systems perspective (Patterson 1991a). This perspective has become increasingly important for those who develop policies and design programs and interventions to support persons with disability and their families to have a full and complete life (Dunst et al. 1993; Singer and Powers 1993; Turn-bull and Turnbull 1986). From this perspective it is no longer enough to focus only on the person with the disability. Rather, the goals of programs and interventions are to support and empower the families of persons with disabilities so they all can adapt successfully and have a high quality of life (Dunst, Trivette, and Deal 1988).


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Health Issues