Book Review: Married with Special-Needs Children

Relationship advice for parents of kids with ADHD.

by Laura E. Marshak, Ph.D., and Fran Pollock Prezant, M.Ed.
Woodbine House; $24.95
by David A. Karp
Harvard University Press, 293 pages, $25.95
Purchase Married with Special-Needs Children

As all parents of kids with ADHD know, raising a child with special needs can place strains on your relationship. In Married with Special-Needs Children, the authors address these challenges with compassion and understanding. They offer practical advice on how to manage the many demands on your time, make full use of your available resources, and maintain a healthy support system, whether your child has ADHD or a severe disability.

Marshak and Prezant advise spending more time together as a couple, of course, and also that you take a hard look at both of your parenting styles.

Every parent of a special-needs child will adjust differently. No way of coping is necessarily right or wrong, and some parents take longer than others to come to some sort of acceptance. But what happens too often is that one parent becomes the over-involved expert on the child’s condition and the other fades into the background. The over-involved parent becomes resentful of the distant parent’s lack of support and criticizes that parent’s attempts to help. Predictably, the distant parent retreats further, eliciting more resentment.

The solution, of course, is for both to come toward the center. Easier said than done. Most couples take a tit-for-tat stance, each spouse waiting for the other to change first. This inevitably leads to stalemate.

Instead, say the authors, each parent in this situation must focus on improving his or her own behavior, regardless of what the partner does. Do this and you will feel more powerful. Your spouse will eventually come around. Most important, your kids will be better off for it.