Resilience in a Family of a Child with a Disability: A Familys Lived Experiences

Year: 2011

Author: Bentley-Williams, Robyn

Type of paper: Refereed paper

Social capital theorists have contributed to inclusive practice by arguing for new paradigms to build the capacity of people with disabilities and their families to participate in community life (Chenoweth & Stehlik, 2004). The aim of the research was to shed light on what has helped members of a family to be resilient when there is a child with a disability. A narrative insider approach was adopted in the qualitative research methodology as it had the advantage of capturing a naturalistic perspective on lived experiences within trusted relationships (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Rabbitt, 2003). Participants for this case study were 4 adult members of a family unit, known to the researcher. The family was selected because there was a young adult with an intellectual disability who had received specialised early intervention and additional support since the time of diagnosis at 18 months of age and is now 19 years of age and actively engaged in work training and other pursuits. The story of this family's experiences was worthy of exploring as it may help others to think about their own situations and offer new possibilities in inclusive practices. A major challenge was undertaking research which can give families of children with disabilities a voice into socially inclusive policies and practices, leading to improving family quality of life issues. In teacher education, prospective inclusive educators need to increase their awareness of the value of connection with families. Narratives of family members revealed fresh insights about personal qualities that strengthen resilience. The research identified the specific factors that differentiate what makes a family resilient. Sources of resilience portrayed within and across members of a family unit may deepen understandings about protective factors and guide richer understandings of what makes a difference to learning and life outcomes for diverse learners. These new understandings of resilience in families from real-life experiences may inform the work of teacher educators in inclusive practices.