Empowering Parents of Children with Support Needs Requires a Holistic Approach

By: Louis Chesney
Boy running next to green water fountain

Parents and caregivers of children with support needs are more likely than not to deal with frustrating experiences when navigating through the complexity of the school and community system. These frustrations, compounded by the pandemic, can run as deep as not getting ahold of someone for something as severe as a child’s limited eligibility for services. Feeling ignored or discounted in the school and community can damage a caregiver’s sense of self-efficacy when they are the primary stakeholder in their child’s future. Also, being attuned to the kind of discrimination children with support needs face in society can further contribute to that negative effect.

Caregivers may find respite when, let’s say, a museum accommodates individuals with sensory sensitivities or has a building design for these individuals’ comfort and safety. To illustrate, the museum can provide unique programming before or after typical hours or a designated space for sensory breaks and, in turn, create a rewarding experience for the parent and child. Ultimately, parents want to prepare their children for the world of tomorrow and to change the world for the better by improving attitudes toward those who think and act differently. Parents want to create more spaces than this museum example that accept and understand neurodiverse individuals.

Another potential barrier to self-efficacy may be an actual or perceived lack of understanding from other caregivers and colleagues, particularly those with neurotypically developing children. Suppose those parents never experienced their child having a significant tantrum in public (because of sensory overload), consistent academic struggles (because of problems of dyslexia and school policy), or trouble making new friends (because of not picking up on social cues from neurotypical classmates). In that case, it can feel isolating and overwhelming. Luckily, caregivers of children with support needs can tap into resources to learn to manage social, behavioral, and environmental challenges and to navigate services when necessary. RethinkCare Parenting & Caregiving solution provides these resources with one-on-one consultations and online courses.

Actual or perceived lack of understanding from managers and family members can also negatively affect parents’ self-efficacy. This professional and personal support is vital for caregivers to have the fortitude to seek treatment or skill-building services for their children or implement behavioral strategies. When this support is absent or insufficient to meet the needs of parents and caregivers, direct access to digital tools like RethinkCare’s Personal Wellbeing and Professional Resilience can help. Online course topics include sleeping better, managing career stress, and developing a growth mindset.

Based on Alight research, employers adopting this wellbeing-centric approach to benefits and engagement will increase employee acquisition and retention rates by 5–12%. With RethinkCare, employers have the power to improve acquisition and retention of parents and caregivers of children with support needs.

Offering RethinkCare solution to caregivers through their benefits and helping them gain the skills to add to a sense of wellbeing at work and find a sense of wellbeing in themselves will positively affect their sense of self-efficacy at home. This holistic approach can also bring more empathy and respect, build stronger relationships, and help one feel more connected to work, increasing engagement and productivity.

To learn more about the new RethinkCare platform, request a demo.

About the Author

Headshot of Louis Chesney from RethinkCare

Program Manager at RethinkCare

Louis Chesney is the Program Manager of Neurodiversity for RethinkCare, overseeing the day-to-day operations and expansion of RethinkCare’s neurodiversity course content and consultation approach. Before joining RethinkCare, Louis championed and led a hiring program for autistic adults at a global technology company. He continually aims to make a positive impact on those who are underserved. As an individual who experienced selective mutism first-hand, Louis inspires and actively contributes to the current work. He co-authored “ECHO: A Vocal Language Program for Easing Anxiety in Conversation,” a Plural Publishing book designed to help older children and teens needing social communication support.

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