A very special journey: Parenting children with Special needs in the Maldives.

Year: 2019

Author: Nishan, Fathmath

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The birth of a child is an exciting period for any parent. However, having a child with special needs could change parents’ expected experience. Thus, the balance of the single system of balance of the family can be adversely affected by the birth of a child with developmental disabilities (Kandel & Merrick, 2007). Additionally, the cultural beliefs of having a child with special needs can cause duress to the parents. Similarly, in the Maldivian cultural context, many parents face the stigma of having a child with special needs and experience challenges in coping with parenting such children. The aim of this study was to explore the factors that influence the parenting of children with special needs in the Maldives and to identify the coping strategies used by the parents. This study used a qualitative approach in investigating the experiences of the parents in parenting children with special needs. Using a qualitative method provides the depth of meaning and peoples subjective experiences (Leavy, 2017) and the aim of the researcher relies on the participants' view of the situation (Creswell, 2013). In order to gain the participants’ unique perspectives and experiences, a semi-structured interview protocol was used in this study. Although interviews consume more time, it has the advantage of adaptability (Bell, 1999) and a good means of providing firsthand, first-person account of the participant (McQuerrey, 2017). The data for this study was collected by conducting interviews with 25 purposively selected parents of students belonging to different categories of special needs. The data was qualitatively analyzed following the thematic analysis framework of Braun and Clarke (2006). It was found that the most difficult challenge parents of children with special needs faced were schooling, coping with parents own distress and lack of awareness of other people leading to acceptance. This study contributed to the insights needed to address issues, identify challenges and coping strategies of parenting children with special needs in the Maldives. This study being the first of this nature in the context of the Maldives contributed to fill the gap in the available knowledge of parenting children with special needs in the Maldives as well as provided information on supports needed for parenting children with special needs in the Maldives.