Stress on the family of handicapped people has often gone unnoticed as it is the handicapped person himself who usually receives all the attention.
For the families of handicapped persons living at home, the stress may come immediately, if the condition is recognizable at birth. This is probably less traumatic than the ensuing waiting period between birth and diagnosis, if the condition is not readily diagnosed. The greatest stress usually falls upon the mother. If she is not young, if the child is her first and she feels it may be her last, the stress is more acute. Even if she anticipates other pregnancies, there is the ever-present fear of delivering another handicapped child. As time goes by and the child does not progress at a normal rate, the mother may suffer acute physical strain because her child continues to behave as a baby for a long time. When the child reaches school age, the mother may be emotionally upset when she sees other children of the same age as her child going to school whilst hers remains at home. As the child reaches adolescence, the mother has anxiety about the future for her child, and if the child does become self-sufficient enough to live in a workshop or group housing situation with other handicapped persons, the separation between mother and child may be unduly severe as the physical and emotional bond between them (and the level of dependency) had been unnaturally close for so many years.
Many of the stresses indicated for the mother apply to the father as well but this is in part dependent upon how much time he spends at home and how active an interest he takes in his child. With the mother spending so much time on caring for the handicapped child, the father may feel neglected. As the child reaches adolescence, the father has to accept the possibility that he may have to support him for the remainder of his life, rather than having the child become financially independent after an expected (and socially accepted) length of time. It the handicapped child is a boy, the father may severely miss the normal father-son relationship he may have dreamed of.