Over the years, in meeting hundreds of parents of children with learning disabilities or other neurological or developmental disorders, I've found that parents belong to several distinct species. Which one are you?
The parentus ignoramus has never heard of learning disorders and has no clue what I am talking about, even after a clear explanation has been given. No matter. However, they also make no attempt to learn more about it or read available reading materials, and consequently, make no effort to help their child. Parentus ignoramuses do not believe in science and easily fall prey to those who tout quick cures like "smart pills" and witch doctors. Parentus ignoramuses are not concerned if their child is illiterate because they have mapped out a future for their child in which absolutely no reading or writing is required, not even to get a driving license.
Beneath the Bree van de Kamp veneer of the parentus denialus lies a fragile ego that would be instantly crushed if dissonance was introduced into their self-made utopia. Lacking in self-esteem, the parentus denialus must maintain this image of perfection at all costs in order to gain esteem from the Joneses, even at the cost of their own child's future.
P. denialus comes in many different flavours, but they all belong to the same species. The mantra of the parentus denialus is "My child does NOT have a learning disability!!!" (See "Top 10 excuses why parents don't want to treat their children's learning disabilities".)
The parentus denialus can be found in any profession or socioeconomic group, regardless of level of education. No special training is required to spot this species. You can toss a dart into a crowd and you'll have a 90% chance of hitting one.
The parentus knowitallus usually have many letters before and after their name. It is quite easy to spot this species. They have a vision defect that makes it difficult for them to see with their eyes, so they use their nostrils instead. When they talk, they use their nostrils to look at you. Their mantra is "What do you know, you are just a therapist." Infection by the p. knowitallus must be avoided as it is known to cause sudden and uncontrolled spikes in blood pressure.
The parentus impoveritii is the saddest of the bunch. They want their children to have a better life than them, but because they cannot afford treatment, they are forced to abandon their dreams of a better future for their child. The government's monthly stipend for learning disabled children would not cover even one week of therapy. And thus the cycle of poverty continues.
The parentus incalculus is mathematically challenged. Their mantra is "But therapy is so expensive!"
For example, it would cost RM3,000 to treat their child's problem from start to finish. (And by "finish", I mean a complete cure.) However, the parentus incalculus does not know how to do basic addition and multiplication, and as such, are penny wise and pound foolish. They prefer to spend money on private tutoring or reading programmes which has no effect whatsoever on neurological problems. If they could do basic addition, they would figure out that RM200 a month for tutoring comes to RM2,500 a year. Multiply that by 11 years of schooling and the total comes to RM27,000.
Then they should add in the cost of lost employment opportunities due to illiteracy. Add to that also the cost to the child's self-esteem. The cost of a lost childhood due to spending all day in tuition centres and all night doing homework. Add up all the above and compare that to the cost of therapy: RM3,000.
The strangest of this species that I have come across spouted their mantra one day, and the next day showed up in a new RM60,000 car.
Parentus annoyingus is the parent of a child who has multiple therapists for different disabilities. They have been around the therapy circuit for years and know all the hospitals and all the therapists in town and out of town. They have a 'main therapist' they have been to for years and are very fond of. They even refer to their therapist as "doctor".
Whatever you ask a parentus annoyingus to do, they will not do until they have checked with their main therapist first, regardless of the fact that the therapist works in an entirely different and unrelated profession. The mantra of the parentus annoyingus is, "But my doctor says...".
It is best to avoid the parentus annoyingus as their annoying-ness is very contagious.
The parentus insensitivus unknowingly hurt their child by telling them, "Oh my child, look how much you are costing me!"
Or, "Oh child, why do I have to take time to do therapy with you at home and send you here and there and take time away from my career? Sigh. Why can't you be like your brother who doesn't have any problems?"
This species is closely related to the parentus ignoramus, with one vital difference - they are ignorant, but they care.
Unfortunately, due to their ignorance, they believe everything they hear because they don't have the knowledge to judge whether something has merit or not, neither are they educated enough to do any research on the net. Their mantra is, "I'll try anything."
P. gullibulus are easily sold and need no convincing. They are full of gung-ho and jump head first into everything. Whatever they can afford, they will try. When they don't see results overnight, they quickly move on to the next latest thing that their neighbour tells them about.
The parentus gullibulus rarely finds success because even when they have found a good thing, they don't know it and they don't stick with it long enough to produce results. But more often, they spend money on things that cannot produce results. At the end of the day, they spend a lot of money and get nothing in return. However, they are never disappointed because they have assuaged their guilt by telling themselves that at least they have tried.
The polar opposite of parentus gullibulus, the parentus skepticus, is completely paralysed by the thought that time and money might be spent on something that might not work, so they never try anything. Their mantra is "I want a 100% guarantee", not realising that the only people who give 100% guarantees are used-car salesmen.
Similar to the p. gullibulus, they do not bother to do any research on the merits of whatever they come across. Instead, they reject it outright because they insist on a guarantee, not knowing that 90% of the outcome of therapy or treatment is entirely dependent on their own efforts.
The p. lazii hand their child over the therapist (or schoolteachers, tutors or maids) and do nothing on their own. Their mantra is "I pay you do to the work, so you do it." Like the p. skepticus, they don't realise that 90% of success comes from their own efforts.
Corollary mantras are "I have no time", "I'm busy", "I'm tired" or "I have other children to look after."
The parentus dedicatus is a rare breed. They are very elusive, although a few become prominent members of society by promoting public awareness and bringing change by being a thorn in the side of complacent governments. Scientists speculate that they are not of earthly origin as they bear so little resemblance to their earthly counterparts.
The parentus dedicatus know that they have been given a child with special needs because they can be entrusted to take care of them, and they are determined to carry this out to the best of their abilities. Whatever therapy they pursue, they do it 100%. There is no slacking and no excuses, nor do they make excuses for their child. Some go on the net to learn more about the therapy and ask intelligent questions to the therapist. They find out what else they can do. Some even go back to school to become doctors and therapists themselves. No mountain is too high, no road too long. Their mantra is, "I have to do this for my child. If not me, then who?"
Some take on the government to change the laws and to petition for services to be made available to their children. If someone tells them no, they keep looking until they find someone who tells them yes. They never give up. Some quit their jobs to devote themselves full-time to the recovery of their child. Most devote themselves completely to the recovery of their child and still keep their full-time job. Some write blogs and set up forums and support groups to network with other parents. Some set up NGOs and charities to help others after they have found their way.
They understand that love does not mean simply saying "I love you" but that love must be translated into action and dedication in order to produce results. And to those who make much effort, much results shall be given.
To these mothers and fathers, I salute you. I wish there were more of you in this world.
• Recovered from Autism: Maya Viktoria
• Symptoms of Learning Disabilities