What is a good way to elaborate in a "nutshell" on the impact that autism spectrum disorders, severe disabilities, multiple disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and developmental disabilities have on a child and their families?
The impact on a family of one or more children with disabilities can be substantial. The emotional stress of caring for a child on the autism spectrum can be particularly difficult. No matter how much parents love their children, the psychological burden of caring for children with behavior disorders can tax the patience of even the most patient of caregivers. That is why families that include a child with a developmental disorder need to be constantly aware of their reactions to sudden, sometimes violent outbursts by the affected child. Families understand the requirement to educate themselves on the special needs of such children, and those who can afford to do so will typically enroll their autistic children in schools or classes that specialize in educating special needs children. Because immersing a child with moderate or severe autism into a regular classroom environement can be highly disruptive to the learning process for the entire class, special education teachers need to be available to address the needs of the individual student.
"Severe" or "multiple" disabilities present unique challenges, depending upon the precise nature of the disabilities in question. A child dependent upon a wheelchair for mobility does not necessarily have any mental or emotional problems that require special attention. In such cases, families, and schools, need only make accommodations necessary for those mobility requirements, for example, construction of wheelchair ramps at entryways. If those mobility problems are compounded by psychological disorders, then the impact on the family, again, can be substantial. Many families, however, adjust to the special needs of such children and construct as normal a routine as possible.
At times, the stress on a family of caring for a special needs child can become so great -- or one or both parents can find the challenge so overwhelming -- that the family unit begins to disintegrate. Divorces have occurred as a result of one parent's inability or unwillingness to make the sacrifices necessary to accommodate the needs of a mentally handicapped child. The disruptions to a "normal" family routine that are inherent in households that include severely mentally handicapped children can be difficult on all members of the family, especially siblings who may resent the extra attention the special needs child receives, or who find the special needs child annoying (e.g., an autistic child whose emotional characteristics are emotionally difficult for a sibling who is continually interrupted during playtime by the autistic child can create resentment).
Caring for a mentally disabled child, or one who is severely physically disabled, can be enormously difficult for a family, especially if there are other underlying issues about which tensions within the home already exist. The financial burden of caring for a disabled child, the limitations on family activities that are required in deference to the special needs of the disabled child, and the level of patience and understanding that all members of the family have to maintain on a daily basis all present a formidable challenge for most families. That is why counseling and access to social services developed to help such families are so important.
I'm not sure that there is a nutshell answer to this question! Students are parents are impacted greatly. However, once identified there are many options for support through Special Education services. The child may be confused about the diagnosis or to understand it. Then once the child does understand they may understand all too well. It may also be easy for family members to dismiss behavior outbursts, etc instead of effectively and appropriately addressing the behaviors; simply stating that it's because of "the disability". on the other side of the argument, once a family has a diagnosis, it may help them to better understand the child AND the child may better understand themselves and their limits, etc.