Family therapy with families who have special needs children

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Hendler, Darlene Marilyn
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Childhood disability is a life experience that has both long and short term consequences for the family. Traditionally Health and Social Services has tended to direct its attention on the individual child and that has been the major focus for service delivery. This emphasis has been on medical treatment, rehabilitation, or education of the child and it is only recently that professionals have broadened their perspective to include family functioning. This is a result of the study and understanding of Family Therapy, the foundation of which is based on the principle that the family is a system of which the individual is a part. "Though each unit is made up of several interrelated segments, a system is more than the sum of its parts and is therefore said to have emergent or synergistic qualities. In other words, a family system is not a collection of individuals, but an entity that exerts a powerful influence on its constituent members while simultaneously being subject to their influence" (Bernier, 1990, p. 591). The purpose of this practicum is two fold. The first is to gain an understanding of family dynamics of those families who have a special needs child. The second purpose is to refine my skills as a family therapist. The models I chose to work with were the Structural and Solution Focused Models of family therapy. I also incorporated the use of the Genogram in the assessment of the family and used the FAMIII as the measurement to assess change. Two case examples are presented to illustrate this approach.