You know that your child is amazing. And even now that your best friend just told you that your child’s language development is lagging, your child is indeed not any less amazing. But you are shocked! What does this mean? Are you to blame? Is it your genes or perhaps your parenting? Relax, your child is normal and so are your feelings.

That being said, you need to better comprehend what you are experiencing. Parents need to understand the stages through which they will pass in the process of coping with the awareness of their child’s disability.

This is necessary for two reasons. Without a proper understanding of what to expect, they will likely suffer unnecessary guilt and anxiety. But perhaps even more significant is that as long as parents don’t fully accept their child’s disability, the parent handicaps the child further through the parent’s inability to adequately direct the critical focus and energies to help the child deal with the problem.

Research has shown that most parents pass through five stages upon receiving news of their child’s disability. It is important to realize that every parent is different. As such, with some parents, a phase may be skipped or even repeated after passing through to another stage. Regardless, it is helpful to know the necessary continuum that most can expect.

Here, the five stages parents you can expect to encounter once you get the news from a qualified professional about your child’s disability.

1. Denial  

It is perfectly reasonable to go into shutdown mode when you get the news. “How could this be?” It’s known as “freeze,” and you may not even ask simple questions as you are taken aback by something you didn’t expect. You may feel dejected, and some parents even cry, or even laugh inappropriately as you are still unable to process what just happened.

After your initial reaction, the most important thing is to climb out of that hole of fear by becoming educated about your child’s condition. As you begin to acquire knowledge and gain understanding regarding your child’s speech impediment, you will become more calm and balanced.

2. Anger  

Parents are wired to protect their babies, and quite often fathers are even angrier than mothers at this stage. Anger is really an extension of denial. This anger is the reflection of the inability to deal with the reality, and like anything that crosses us, it often results in anger.

The anger may take either an aggressive form such as rage or be passive and cause the parent to become withdrawn. It could even result in the parent verbally abusing the speech professional who did the evaluation!

The first thing to do is to increase your tolerance level to stave off powerful emotions. Dissolving anger begins with taking care of yourself and adopting a healthier lifestyle, at least temporarily. And if that doesn’t help some anger management tactics may be in order.

3. Bargaining

Some parents think that if they will really do their homework and dig down deep into the internet, they will find some rare cure for the speech or language problem with which their child has been saddled. Often when a mother is desperate about her child, she will believe anything. It will require considerable self-control, but follow the lead of the therapists and shelve your search for that magic bullet!

4. Depression

When you reach stage four you are plagued by that nagging, “Will my child ever be alright?”  This stress and anxiety can be toxic and migrate into other areas of your life as well, and sometimes negatively impact your child who is already dealing with enough!

It is high time to cultivate some self-love and compassion. Relax. The solution to your child’s problem requires the implementation of a process. This may be the time to call in family members or close friends for support. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but rather an indication of strength. You are dedicated to helping your child!  

5. Acceptance

Finally, loving parents will become resigned to the reality that their child has speech or language impairment. This isn’t what you wanted, but once you reach this stage, you will finally feel more peaceful and relaxed.  From this new orientation, you will be able to help your child infinitely more which is what you sincerely desire.

With this new found acceptance you will be able to work constructively with the SLP and find ways to encourage your child as she sets out on the journey of surmounting her challenge. What you may notice is something else as well, a very precious fringe benefit- a more profound love and a different sense of closeness to your amazing child!