With one in five U.S. households having a child with special needs, most fatherhood programs can expect to enroll at least some fathers who face the associated challenges.
Fathers and mothers of children with special needs have many of the same needs and concerns; however, there can be significant differences in how they respond to their child’s condition, what they do to cope, and what they find helpful.
Fathers of children with special needs often experience loneliness and isolation, hunter-provider anxiety, strained marital relationships, or feelings of inadequacy.
Parents of children with special needs often experience grief as they struggle to adapt to their situation. With support, most navigate what can ultimately be a rewarding journey of resilience.
Fathers can understand they are not alone if they have opportunities to connect with other fathers and exchange ideas at scheduled social events.
Men can recognize that even if they cannot fix the problem or disability, they can take action to improve their child’s outcomes.
Fathers want information about their child’s condition and development, what can be done to help, and what services are available to help their child and the family as a whole.
Couples who have children with disabilities often report low marriage satisfaction. Couples counseling or workshops on communication skills may help mothers and fathers strengthen their bond.
Fatherhood programs, particularly those that work with fathers of infants and young children, should address early intervention and discussion of special needs.