A DIFFERENCE IN THE FAMILY: Life with a a Disabled Child by Helen Featherstone
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A DIFFERENCE IN THE FAMILY: Life with a a Disabled Child

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Nothing bad had ever happened to me before,"" parents often say, assessing the impact of a child's handicap on family life. Inevitably, the fact of handicap shapes a family's future. Most move beyond shock and sorrow, groping toward their own solutions. Many make a viable accommodation, and a lucky few acquire strengths in new skills and roles. Featherstone's frank analysis of Life with a Disabled Child is a vital, inspired work, drawing on extensive reading in popular and professional literatures and on her own experience as mother of multiply-handicapped Jody and teacher of Special Education courses. This dual perspective gives her work clarity and depth; a graceful writing style further extends its reach. Featherstone explores the complex emotional geography of parent reactions--fear, anger, loneliness, guilt; she considers the various aspects of recreating and maintaining family life despite ""a constant drizzle of problems and tasks""--the strains on a marriage are severe; and she appreciates how able-bodied brothers and sisters possess ""dark feelings and troubling fantasies"" more often than they show or tell. Moreover, she knows that professionals, confronting a child's limited prospects, share with parents ""a childlike need for magic."" Successful families, she observes, tend to develop common-interest support systems: local parent associations and the magazine Exceptional Parent are welcome resources. In time, though, each family must determine how much they are willing to do: ""you have to learn to forgive yourself for not being everything."" Parents of handicapped children will find this a resolute, uncompromising ally, offering incisive observations and generous, unsentimental support (as well as numerous references); general audiences--and professional ones--should find her appraisal just as worthy.

Pub Date: Sept. 26th, 1980
Publisher: Basic Books