In days gone by if a woman gave birth to a daughter and not a son, she was considered at fault. If a family needed an heir to be a man-child and the mother didn’t produce one, she could well have been trouble. Now we know that in fact, the father contributes either the X or the Y chromosome determining the gender of the child.
In today’s world, when gender is not an issue, if the child is born with a disability are the parents to blame? It all depends on what kind of disability. There are some congenital conditions such as Down’s Syndrome or Cystic Fibrosis, which are genetically determined. Down’s results from non-disjunction of Meiosis in either the mother or father. Cystic Fibrosis is a result of a double recessive gene carried by both parents. Certainly neither parent can be blamed for these.
If a child is born to an addicted mother, chances are that it too will be addicted to the same drug and may suffer developmental problems. That is why each package of cigarettes and each bottle of alcohol carry warning stickers for expectant mothers not to indulge in these substances. Every child has the right and should have the chance to develop normally and come out whole and perfect.
When a mother ignores these warnings and continues to drink, and the child is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome what do you do? There are no hard and fast rules; it’s not always a matter of black and white. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a matter of degrees as it depends on how much alcohol the mother ingested during the pregnancy and at what stage of the pregnancy. Different stages of gestation govern different corollaries of development.
A Fetal Alcohol child will have developmental issues. They may appear normal or not. The usual symptoms are small birth weight, and a low APGAR score. Their physical and neurological development will be slower. They will most likely have trouble in school and have issues with attention span. They may not be able to sit still for too long. And if they get frustrated, look out. They have a short fuse and are easily triggered into violence. Unfortunately the child who suffers from FAS has a life sentence and it is not fixable. The child will have a hard road ahead of him.
Autism is another congenital condition the origins of which are still not known. You basically have the luck of the draw; your child comes out healthy and perfect or it does not.
In today’s society most would-be mothers are in possession of a sufficiently elevated consciousness to think of their unborn child and do the best they can with nutrition, diet and staying away from harmful substances. Some mothers even avoid taking cold
medications and analgesic drugs and would rather suffer a headache than cause some sort of birth defect no matter how small. Those mothers want to have a clean conscience. And if the child should be born with a disability they know that it wasn’t because of something they did.
But enough blame. The reality is that there is a child with a disability in the family and now they have to deal with it and move forward. The main issue is how best to help the child. Luckily there are doctors and support systems for children with disabilities. There are wheelchairs, physiotherapy, play therapy, special diets, and special schools with specially trained staff.
All parents get tired of doing their parental job and parents of a special needs child suffer fatigue even more so. They need extra support and a rotation of helpers for some much-needed time off.
In the olden days most likely the special needs children were hidden away at home perhaps in an unstimulating environment. As a society we are far more accepting and better educated today. Ramps and washroom facilities for the disabled are everywhere. No longer do special needs children have to be kept at home. They go to school just like all the other kids and join in to the best of their ability. Often they have an assigned teacher’s aid to help them throughout the day.
The mandate is that regardless of their disability, children have the right to socialize with their peer group and should have as much fun as they can. They should also have the same chance for learning as any other child. They should be exposed to as many different stimuli in order to promote the growth of new neural pathways.
The responsibility we have as Christians is to uplift these families. We can do this by being open and friendly, by being unjudgmental and accepting. Many people with disabilities have said that they often feel invisible, that people won’t even look at them, or greet them. To be smiled at would be so nice for them. Why can’t we do that? Perhaps some members of society feel embarrassed to see a person in a wheelchair and don’t know what to say or how to react. As Christians we have to think of that disabled person as a person, who has feelings, who is intelligent and who has something to give.
It is said that love is best given away. When it comes back to you from a disabled child or adult in the form of a smile or a hug it is a blessing and will warm your heart.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs)
Public Health Agency of Canada Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)
Nondisjunction in Humans