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Winter 2003 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

Providing Hope and Encouragement for Parents of Child with Disability Goal of New Book

Press Release reprinted with permission by Kensington Publishing Corp. and Dr. Klein

From the time a pregnancy is identified, most parents begin building hopes, dreams, and expectations for their new baby. These dreams can be suddenly shattered when a child is diagnosed with a disability or special health care need, noted Stanley D. Klein, Ph.D., co-editor with Kim Schive, of You Will Dream New Dreams: Inspiring personal stories by parents of children with disabilities (Kensington, $13.00).

"Although compassionate physicians, nurses, social workers, and other health care professionals may try to provide emotional support and useful information," Klein said, "most parents describe feeling terribly alone with feelings they can find hard to put into words. Many parents and professionals have suggested that the diagnosis of a child's disability initiates a mourning process in parents, much like the grief felt when a child dies. Yet the child is alive and parenting must proceed."

"Our book," stated Klein, "is all about human connections - `veteran' parents reaching out to parents who have recently learned that their child has a disability or a special health care need. The compassion and caring of these very special connections can be healing at a critical time in the life of a family."

"To create this book, we asked `veteran' parents of children with disabilities to tell the stories they wish they could have heard at that emotionally difficult time, to share words of validation, affirmation, support, and encouragement. Although the authors of these essays have had very different experiences—differences that are reflected in the stories they tell — similar messages of hope and encouragement come through in each essay," Klein stated. The basic messages of the essays include:

From the Foreword of You Will Dream New Dreams

You are not alone. My wife and I have been there and we have learned to dream new dreams. On July 1, 1960, our son, Peter, then an infant only four months old, was involved in a terrible automobile accident which took the life of his mother, my first wife. For a considerable period of time, his very survival was in doubt. He had multiple skull fractures and serious brain injuries which resulted in his having mental retardation.

…While in the hospital with tubes running in and out of his tiny body, he was baptized. He returned home just before Christmas and our family life began anew...After spending three years as a single parent to Peter and his two older brothers, God sent me Ginny Judson, a schoolteacher who I met and married in 1963. In 1966, Ginny and I added a fourth son to our family.

…it has always been very special for us to meet and talk with other parents who have shared similar experiences. We have been comforted and nourished by other parents; we have wept together and we have laughed together. We never perceived one another as superstars or martyrs; we were mothers and fathers discovering our gifts while trying to be the best parents we could be.

I have also been uniquely blessed with opportunities to apply the lessons I have learned as a parent in public life. In 1978, I ran successfully for governor of Pennsylvania and served two four-year terms. Peter was a fine campaigner, a popular subject for campaign photos and a frequent participant in official activities after I was elected. Our feeling was one of pride in Peter's accomplishments, not reluctance to share his shortcomings. Everyone in Pennsylvania knew that the governor had a son with a serious disability…

Later when I served in Washington, D.C., as Attorney General of the United States, one of my principal tasks for President Bush was to spearhead the effort to obtain congressional passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), the civil rights law designed to end discrimination against persons with disabilities and remove barriers to their participation in all aspects of community life. Once again, it was parents, parent organizations and organizations of people with disabilities who helped develop bipartisan support for this legislation.

When I served at the United Nations, I had an opportunity to observe how the needs of some 500 million persons with disabilities around the world are beginning to be met — through the UN's own program of action and in many nations that are using our ADA as a model. Today determined advocates throughout the world, including many parents, are stimulating new thinking about how persons with disabilities can best serve and be served in their societies…

In this book, more than 60 parents who have "been there" reach out to new parents by sharing their stories and their wisdom. They describe their deepest emotions and reflect on how they have become seasoned, veteran parents. Because of their sons and daughters, their lives and their values changed. They have become informed experts about their children and have found new ways to grow and serve. As veteran parents ourselves, Ginny and I know firsthand that parents' strongest allies will always be other parents and we count ourselves fortunate to have been able to share our experiences with others.

To new parents, grandparents and other family members reading these fine essays, we say with special feelings of respect: "Welcome to a wonderful worldwide community! Keep this book nearby and share it with your family and friends. You are not alone."

DickThornburgh

Washington, DC


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