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Descriptive survey of the parents of mildly retarded children Poulos, Susan J.

Abstract

Mildly retarded children provide special problems for many professional disciplines giving services to children in our society. This study is intended to describe the nature of the performance and/or behavioral traits of these children which influenced parents to seek help from a professional person or influenced a professional person to give services to the child and his family. A sample of 65 children was selected from the Vancouver school system's Special classes for slow learners. Their parents were interviewed during the summer of 1967 by one interviewer. The difficulties that were described by parents were not limited to developmental lags or learning problems. They also included behavior problems in the home and community. The observations of this survey indicated that the nature of the problems, as felt by the parents, tended to change as the child passed through the childhood stages of development. The problems corresponded very closely to society's expectations as related to age-appropriate performance and behavior of the normal child. The type of help that was sought by the parents reflected the changing nature of their assessment of the problems. In infancy, the help sought was predominantly medical. In the toddler and preschool stages the type of help sought changed gradually from medical to educational and social services. During the school-age stage, the parents sought help from the greatest variety of sources, mainly from the school, but also including public health nurses, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists. Factors other than the child's performance and/or behavior appeared to influence the patterns of help-seeking found among the parents but these were not fully assessed by this study. The parents were not always realistic in their appraisals of their child's abilities. Feelings of ambivalence, confusion and anxiety regarding the child's problems and the various professionals involved, were frequently noted. To generalize these findings from this sample of children in Special classes to the whole population of mildly retarded children was made difficult, by the method of sampling but one might speculate that differences between this sample and the population would be differences of degree rather than kind.

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