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Impacts of Mothers’ Support for SEN Children

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 3175 words Published: 10th Apr 2018

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Becoming a mother is a wonderful, exhilarating experience. Raising children brings new meaning to every moment of your life and depth to your experience as a human being. Equally to become parents and to nurture a newborn baby is a great responsibility.

“As parents, we develop hopes and dreams about who our baby will be in the world and how we will be as parents. This process of creating an internal life for our baby and ourselves is a natural part of what all parents go through. We do not expect that our baby will be born with, or develop, a disability or special need; when that happens, much of what we imagined and planned is forever changed” (Abilitypath.org, 2015). Special Educational needs and disability is a reality but much more than it to a parent, it is a huge responsibility to parents.

“…it is not the child’s disability that handicaps and disintegrates families; it is the way they react to it and to each other” (Dickman & Gordon, 1985, p. 109).

The term Special Educational Needs (SEN) has a legal definition which is set out in the Education Act 1996 and the Children and Family Act 2014. It applies to children who have learning difficulties or disabilities that make it significantly harder for them to learn or access education than most other children of their age.

So Special Educational Needs could mean a child has (Find.redbridge.gov.uk, 2015):

  • Learning difficulties- in acquiring basic skills in schools.
  • Emotional and behavioral difficulties- making friends or relating to adults or behaving properly in school.
  • Specific learning difficulties- with reading, writing, number work or understanding information.
  • Sensory or physical needs- such as hearing or visual impairments, which might affect them in school.
  • Communication problems- in expressing themselves or understanding what others are saying.
  • Medical or health conditions- which may slow down a child’s progress and/or involves treatment that affects his or her education.

“Early childhood is a crucial time of development for all children, including

those with special educational needs.”

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989)

“Children with special needs may have mild learning disabilities or profound cognitive impairment; food allergies or terminal illness; developmental delays that catch up quickly or remain entrenched; occasional panic attacks or serious psychiatric problems” Terri Mauro, Our Children with Special Needs Expert retrieved from http://specialchildren.about.com/od/gettingadiagnosis/p/whatare.htm. Special Educational Needs include disabilities like Autistic Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), Cerebral Palsy, Deafness/Hearing Loss, Down Syndrome, Epilepsy, Learning Disabilities, Intellectual Disabilities, Visual Impairments and so on.

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The study focus specifically on the impacts of mothers’ support on special children in the dissertation; as acknowledged by Gilliom et al. (2002), mothers tend to be responsible for the majority of childrearing in most families. According to Dudley-Marling, “Fathers were not immune to the effects of school problems, but mothers, not fathers, talked about losing sleep worrying about their child’s schooling. Mothers, not fathers, reported that worry over school troubles frequently intruded on their lives at work. It was also a mother, not a father, who told me that she worried so much about her son’s struggles in school that she was not eating” (pp. 195). Koegel et al., (1992), study found the following: among specific concerns expressed by mothers are worries about their child’s welfare in the years ahead, the child’s ability to function independently, and the community’s acceptance of their child.

Disability is a part of the human condition. Responses to disability have changed since the 1970s, prompted largely by the self-organization of people with disabilities and by the growing tendency to see disability as a human rights issue. Approximately 800 million young children worldwide are affected by biological, environmental and psychosocial conditions that can limit their cognitive development. In Europe, recent estimates place the number of children with special educational needs (SEN) at 15 million. From the MAURITIUS EDUCATION STATISTICS (2014), we came to know that as in Mauritius at March 2014, there were 59 Special Education Needs schools in the Republic of Mauritius registered with the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. Twelve schools were run by Ministry, while the other 47 were run by NGOs. The number of students enrolled in the 59 special schools stood at 2,291 (of whom 63% were boys) as at March 2014 compared to 2,008 in March 2013, representing an increase of 14%. Retrieved from http://statsmauritius.govmu.org/English/StatsbySubj/Documents/ei1132/education.pdf.

“Early childhood is a crucial time of development for all children, including

those with special educational needs.”

Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989),

World Declaration on Education for All (Jomtien, Thailand 1990)

The Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education

(Salamanca, Spain 1994)


‘‘The mother-child relationship is considered one of the long-lasting and enduring interactions in which basic human development can effectively occur.’’ (Bronfenbrenner & Ceci, 1994)

‘Parental adaptation to a child’s disability is a complex, lifelong process, both for parents as well as other family members’ (Hauser-Cram et al. 2001; Seltzer & Heller, 1997).

From the dawn of human history, mothers have been at the heart of human development. It is mothers who help the children in developing the first basic competencies, development of trust, identity and worth. Being our first emotional and social support mechanism, our first teacher, our first health care provider, the mothers act ‘as both the protector and nurturer’. Mothers remains and will remain the most powerful force for special needs children. It is said that that parental involvement in the form of ‘at-home good parenting’ has a significant positive effect on children’s achievement. This study will focus on whether the support of the mothers can improve and have a positive impact on the special children’s overall skills such as social skills, educational field and also personal lives.

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Researchers have evidence for the positive effects of parent involvement on children, families, and school when schools and parents continuously support and encourage the children’s learning and development (Eccles & Harold, 1993; Illinois State Board of Education, 1993). According to Henderson and Berla (1994) (p. 160), ‘the most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status but the extent to which that student’s family is able to: 1) Create a home environment that encourages learning, 2) Express high (but not unrealistic) expectations for their children’s achievement and future careers, 3) Become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community’. Dubois et al (1994) showed that family support and the quality of parent-child relationships significantly predicted school adjustment in a sample of 159 young US adolescents (aged 10 –12) followed in a two year longitudinal study. De Garmo et al (1999) found support for the model of parental influence on to educational achievement for young children. According to De Garmo et al, (1999, p.1233), ‘Parenting practices act as mediators of educational achievement for the children.’

There are several articles and researches that testify that maternal support do have positive impacts on their children. The mother-child relationship precedes learning opportunities outside the home in facilitating development among preschool children. (Claspi et al., 2004). Authors increasingly argue that mothers can promote preschooler’s coping ability, if they are supportive and non-punitive in how they react to negative emotions (Eisenberg, Fables, Carlo & Karbon, 1992).

‘Nurturing a child early in life may help him or her develop a larger hippocampus, the brain region important for learning, memory and stress responses, a new study shows.’ by Joseph Castro, Live Science Contributor (January 30, 2012). How a Mother’s Love Changes a Child’s Brain. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/18196-maternal-support-child-brain.html. “We can now say with confidence that the psychosocial environment has a material impact on the way the human brain develops,” said by Dr. Joan Luby, the study’s lead researcher and a psychiatrist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. “It puts a very strong wind behind the sail of the idea that early nurturing of children positively affects their development.”

‘Parental acceptance-rejection theory (PAR Theory) is an evidence-based theory of socialization and lifespan development that attempts to predict and explain major causes, consequences, and other correlates of interpersonal—especially parental—acceptance and rejection within the United States and worldwide’ (Rohner, 1986, 2004; Rohner and Rohner, 1980). Parental acceptance- rejection is commonly represented along a continuum representing the quality of the affectional bonds between parents and their children and with the physical, verbal, and symbolic behaviors that parents use to express their feeling. According to PAR Theory the need for positive response or parental acceptance not only persists throughout childhood it exerts a predictable impact on self-concept of the individual. The theory predicts the existence of positive correlation between parental acceptance rejection and seven self-concepts of children / adults: Hostility/ Aggression, Dependency, Negative Self-Esteem, Negative Self Adequacy, Emotional Unresponsiveness, Emotional Instability and Negative Worldview (Rohner 1986; Rohner, Khaleque, & Cournoyer 2003a).

A vast research literature shows that the quality of parent-child relationships characterized by parental acceptance (love) and rejection (lack of love) is a major predictor of psychological functioning and development for both children and adults universally (Khaleque & Rohner, 2002; Rohner, 1975, 2002; Rohner & Rohner, 1980).

Montes & Halterman (2007) reported that despite increased stress levels and diminished quality of communication, mothers of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder reported higher level of relationship closeness with their child compared with mothers in the general United States population. Ainsworth & others (Ainsworth, Blehar, Waters & Wall, 1978; Sroufe, 1985) have emphasized the role of maternal sensitivity and responsiveness in the development of secure infant attachment.

The findings and researches mentioned above point toward one direction, that is maternal support do have an impact on children. If the studies advocates for the positive impacts of mother support, then the results should be same for the maternal support to special educational needs children.

In a famous Reality TV show SATYAMEV JAYATE, one episode -‘Satyamev jayate- Persons with Disabilities- We Can Fly’ shed light on the lives on people with disabilities, their parents support and where they have reached today is all due to their parental love and support. For a normal person, parental or maternal support may not hold great importance but for special children, the support of parents means the world for them. Retrieved from http://www.satyamevjayate.in/persons-with-disabilities/personswithdisabilities.aspx. Among the several interviews conducted by Aamir Khan, many of the disabled persons dedicated the success of lives to their parents. The interviews not only portray the journey of the disabled persons but equally show that their parents support became their strength. A little disabled child, Shreya Chaturvedi of New Delhi said ‘Anyone loves me or not, but my mom loves me a lot…’ Through the interview, the child speaks about her mother’s unlimited efforts and attempts. And the most moving and motivational interview was of Mr. Sai Prasad Vishwanathan from Hyderabad. He is a gold medalist from Chaitanya Bharathi Institute of Technology, an M.S. in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, and has a business degree from Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. Throughout the interview, he talked about his parental support and its impacts on him and his future. He says ‘I do not remember my parents being upset. I do not ever recall that they were despaired. They were always telling ‘‘you must study. Because you are still very ordinary. But we are with you and together we can strive to make you an excellent because it’s the only thing that we can do for you. The rest, you must do for yourself and that they have done for me.’’ Almost all the participants in the documentary admitted that the maternal support meant a lot for them and this is what kept them going in the tough journey of their lives. This reality show not only portrayed the lives of disabled persons but equally showed that be it from any part of the world, India or Mauritius, parental and maternal support is the key through which special persons can shine and progress in lives just like any normal person.

Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas is a world-renowned autism expert who is always trying to come up with new treatment and means to improve the lives of autistic children and their families. His Lovaas Model of Applied Behavior Analysis is based on 40 years of research and is backed by published studies showing half of children with autism who receive this intensive treatment become indistinguishable from other children on tests of cognitive and social skills by the time they completed first grade. According to 1999 report from the New York State health department ‘‘Educating Children with Autism’’ ( 2001 ), ‘parents typically are active partners in their child’s education to ensure that skills learned in the educational program transfer to the home setting and to teach their child the many behaviors that are best mastered in the home and community.’ The study of Lovaas et al., (1973), Schopler and Reichler. (1971) showed there are recognition that parents are partners in an educational process that requires close collaboration between home and school, which favors the fact that maternal support does indeed have a very deep and positive impact on the special child and their welfare. Ivar Lovaas equally support the fact that Parental Involvement and Home-based Treatment is better for the autistic children as it help them much more.

In a study of families who had a son with autism under the age of 6 years referred to the TEACCH (Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children) program, Bristol and colleagues (1988) found that, while fathers assumed some role in children’s care, mothers carried a much greater burden. Koegel et al. (1996) reported that teaching parents how to use pivotal response training as part of their applied behavioral analysis instruction resulted in happier parent-child interactions, more interest by the parents in the interaction, less stress, and a more positive communication style.


Disability and special needs were then, associated with shame and considered as punishment both for the disabled and special children and their families (Kofi Marfo, Sylvia Walker, and Bernard L. Charles, 1983). But it is undeniable that however the children may be, they will never be a burden on their parents as the latter love their children unconditionally. In another words, parents are the strength and prime support of the children. A family is far more than a collection of individuals starting a specific physical and psychological space. The main purpose of this study will be the impact of maternal support on special educational needs children’s welfare. There is this misconception about special educational needs children that they are useless and worthless but what they are unaware of is that with the support of parents and special educational teachers; they can perform as good as any normal children. The main focus will be on the mothers of special educational needs children as it is globally known that it the mothers who invest the most in a child’s life. As we say, education first starts at home itself.


The aim of this study is to investigate on how the maternal support, help and care can help special educational needs children to learn, change and adapt to the everyday tasks and activities.

Objectives of the study:

  • To understand how mothers support their special educational needs children and its impact.
  • To investigate the positive changes and improvements brought by the mothers’ support in their children’s lives.
  • To identify the difficult tasks that the special children were unable to perform earlier but can now handle it with the assistance and teaching of their mothers and teachers.


There have been literature about the Special educational needs children and also about their parents but there have been less studies being done on the impact of maternal support on the special child. This study’s aim is to shed light on the positive improvement and changes that occurs in the special children and show the importance of maternal support on Special educational needs children. In-depth interview is used in order to grasp the essence of meaning and also to allow the mothers to narrate the improvement and changes they witnessed with their special child.


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