Being a parent is a challenge and pleasure and a responsibility in equal measure, not to mention that it may feel confusing at times. Families looking after children or adults with a disability need a special system of functioning, which ensures that the disability does not disrupt normal functioning. Well-meaning parents often compound the confusion and lack of confidence of their children with intellectual difficulties owing to lack of information and meaningful support.
In order to address this deficiency, Maria's World Foundation has established a School for Parents whose main goal is to support families in their daily functioning and increase the autonomy of clients. The school is a shared space in which the parents and those close to our clients with intellectual difficulties share thoughts and experience with the support of trained specialists once a month.
Some of the topics covered are:
• avoiding overprotection. Those close to disabled persons persons often do what the person is capable of doing himself/herself;
• Dealing with pity—acceptance of the disability as an obstacle to be overcome and not an insurmountable barrier;
• Encouraging parents to take measured risks and setting realistic goals for people with intellectual difficulties;
• mastering models enabling adequate dealing with acts of discrimination that protect both the person with an intellectual difficulty and the entire family;
• Sexual education etc.
In addition to organising meetings for the entire family, the Foundation also offers individual support for families that need it. Individual meetings are attended by the members of single family and staff of the Centre. These systematic meeting are a platform for agreeing an individual plan for the client with an intellectual difficulty and allow a review and discussion of certain types of behaviour, the progress achieved, etc. When a family needs additional family therapy, Maria's World Foundation is able to provide assistance—either personally or through its partners—enabling the family to attend therapy sessions free of charge.