NADD Bulletin Volume V Number 5 Article 4

Complete listing

Book Review: Bringing up a Challenging Child at Home: When Love is not Enough

Written by Jane Gregory Published 2000 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd, London and Philadelphia, ISBN 1 85302 874 6

Reviewed by Nancy Hatch Warner

My immediate reaction to this book is—Why would any parent of a child with challenging behavior want to read this book?! It forces one to think about all that will be facing them as they raise their child—the exhaustion, the mental and physical stresses and illnesses, the effect on siblings, the effect on their significant other, and their ability to become employed. As a parent of a child with challenging behavior I found it exhausting! Jane Gregory, the author, writes about her daughter Chrissy and her family. The setting is in England; therefore, many of the terms and services are different than those in the states. However, the challenges are the same. Jane takes us through Chrissy’s life from the time she was born until her adolescence, where this book ends. There is a “happy” ending to Chrissy’s story; this is not always the case. Chrissy still has to go through adolescence and enter adulthood. Perhaps Jane will write a sequel.

Despite my initial reaction, there are good reasons for reading this book. Jane Gregory: “This book aims to blend facts with feelings. I hope, by writing it, to smooth the path for other parents in similar situations to my own. By sharing my experience and information I have gathered, I hope to dispel myths and help society to be better educated about challenging behavior.”

“But, despite the sadness and grief we experienced on learning of our child’s disability, our love for our child remains undiminished even when confronted with behaviour we find abhorrent.”

Who can benefit from reading this book?

Parents of children with challenging behavior who are raising their child in their home:

Luckily parents now and parents or caregivers before us have paved the way to better care and understanding of challenging behaviors. Jane does this in her writing by honestly dealing with all of the issues—positive and negative, personal and corporate. However, the book points out how far we have to go to improve life for the individual and the family members.

Parents of children with challenging behavior who have chosen to not raise their child at home:

For these parents I think the book will reinforce their decision. Not everyone is capable of going through what Jane has gone through.

Professionals:

The book is a must to see the importance of support between professionals and family members. There are no easy answers; Jane says that family members need help and recognition of the difficulties in raising their child. “I was treated like an over-anxious mother when I first expressed concerns about Chrissy’s development. When she showed signs of challenging behaviour, medical professionals had no more idea than I did about what was going on.” Professionals need to be aware of information and services.

The average “person on the street”:

“I had a complicated juggling act on my hands, trying to meet all my children’s needs.” This book is valuable for “normal family members” to discover what the parents of a child with challenging behavior have to deal with. They might be more understanding and perhaps, helpful. “Parents of non-disabled children claim: ‘I could not do it.’ We remind them that we thought we had babies just like theirs until the special needs and challenging behaviour became apparent. Like them, we formed bonds with our child and had hopes and dreams for the future.”

The sub title of this book is “When Love is Not Enough.” Love isn’t enough. Parents of children with challenging behaviour feel isolated. The causes of their children’s problems are many times undiagnosed. There are different theories on medication and behavior modifications. The child’s wishes and needs are difficult to determine. There are triggers of behavior that are hard to control. Treatment approaches are difficult to find. There is a continually struggle to know if residential treatment is the answer. Jane, fortunately, was able to find the right support and effective treatment for Chrissy.

The back of the book lists treatment approaches, practical helps for other parents, useful resource addresses and telephone numbers in England, and a list of other books and references for further reading.

There is a great deal of pain and a lot of difficult work in this story. There is also evidence of a great deal of growth and accomplishment. Jane: “Because I had been so absorbed in dealing with the processes surrounding being the mother of a child with challenging behaviour, I never allowed myself the space to deal with everything that has happened. Now that the dust has settled, I am struggling to overcome my feelings of failure and inadequacy. I lost all my confidence as a mother. Living with the consequences of having a child with severe learning disabilities and challenging behaviour is a rickety bridge I am still crossing. But wallowing in regrets about the past is futile. We have to move on with our lives.”

Nancy Hatch Warner
161A E. Beach Road
Charlestown, RI 02813
e-mail: nwarner7@cox.net