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Learning Disabilities and being an older parent

(17 Posts)
user1493292590 Thu 08-Feb-18 10:17:39

HI everyone,
we are are about to adopt a young child who may or may not develop learning disbilities. We met the medical advisor and I guess they give you the worst case scenario with children and that is fine ,i get that. both parents have learning disabilities and it is not known if they are genetic however the father has a sister who has not got this and leading a normal successful life. I guess i am wondering what other peoples experiences and thoughts are on this. The child we are adopting is 14 months, has caught up incredibly well and there are no recommendations for referrals for LD's or global delay.
Another thing that keeps getting thrown at us from people who always have an opinion on everything is our age. I am 49, my husband is 53. we keep being told about how old we will be when adopted child is 20. I don't worry about things like that and don't live my life worrying about old age. There are lots of people whohave birth children at this age. We have a birth child who is 8. Am i being short sighted on this?

thomassmuggit Thu 08-Feb-18 10:34:06

One reason people will be concerned is that if the child cannot live independently as an adult, who will look after them if you're elderly? This is especially pertinent as you have a birth child. Do you feel you can make a choice, which is where adoption is different to rolling the dice via birth, to make a choice to possibly give them that responsibility?

I'd imagine, your own health matters here. To someone with a family history of longevity, and fit old age, no heart disease, genetic cancers, etc, who has and maintains a healthy BMI and active lifestyle, 70 is nothing, and you may be fit to look after your 20 year old disabled child, still. If your health is different, and you're looking at health problems in your child's teens, and then a 30 year old who cannot live without significant help, being left with no parents, no advocate, and that could leave them more vulnerable than if they had younger parents.

I think the questions are: 1. How severe is the LD? Are we talking independent living, or managing in supported living? Or needing significant care and advocacy as an adult? and 2. How long are you going to be fit and healthy for, to help with the answer to 1.? Plus, of course, 3. What impact will the answers to 1. and 2. have on our BC, especially if they don't want a caring responsibility?

2old2beamum Thu 08-Feb-18 18:34:25

I think you are right to think hard about the future, however who am I to comment! Our last child was placed age 3 when I was 65 and the old boy was 62 (yikes). She is now 12 has very complex needs and severe learning disabilities, but she is good fun and keeps us away from old age.
Not so constructive as thomassmuggits post but you are really young compared with us. Me being a soft touch could not say no, they approached us. The letter box is now sealed and phone line blockedsmile

maggiso Thu 08-Feb-18 19:37:10

I think what you need to know is that a child with learning disability (if the child does indeed develop learning disability) may need support for the rest of their life. It is hard for both parents to work full time if a child is learning disabled- (appointments - taking to school even as a teen etc) so finances could be affected for the rest of your lives, and careers ( possibly both) could be arrested or otherwise redirected, so you need to think about whether this would stop you adopting this child. Would you be happy to not go back to your or DHs career?
There is of course no certainty that this child will have learning disabilities-- or other developmental disabilities- it is difficult to tell at such a young age.
On the other hand fore warned is fore armed. You can be alert for the needs ( what ever they turn out to be) and flexibly plan for the future as you go along. Would you have support if either of you became unwell ( as happened to me).
We adopted a little older ( Ds is 40 years younger than me) and ds is now( just) an adult - with mod/severe learning disability. There have been struggles along the way - and I do worry about the future for him - but the plan is to try to get him as independent as possible, hopefully get him supported as we age a=nd set up a trust to support and advocate for him once we cannot.

fasparent Thu 08-Feb-18 23:51:49

Our DS has an Acquired brain injury decided too adopt after several failed links, love him too bits continues too improve despite professionals predictions , still a long way too go, is a very happy chappie, we are both pensioners now, but have big family support.

flapjackfairy Sat 10-Feb-18 21:04:19

I am another one who has adopted a child with v complex needs as a relative oldie. Our son is 3 and i am 53 and husband 54.
He has severe learning disabilities and complex physical needs and requires round the clock care. He was with us in foster care and we also have a long term foster child who also has complex needs.
We dont think too far ahead due to the nature of our adopted childs needs as his future is somewhat uncertain . We also have 3 grown up birth children who will oversee his care should he outlive us but we have expressly said that we do not want them to take on his physical care. He will go into residential care if needs be when we die.
We are both fit and well at present and our youngsters say i can run rings round them in terms of stamina which helps and i feel (like 2old above ) that it is keeping us young. I believe in having a purpose to focus to life and they gives us so much back we truly feel we are the lucky ones.

2old2beamum Sun 11-Feb-18 16:03:24

Am totally in agreement with fasparent and flapjack these children can bring total joy.
On another side you could have a typical NT child placed with you and they have a devasting accident or illness that leaves them totally disabled .....what would you them ofcourse.
AC8 came with a chromosome abnormality, cocky me thought I knew it all 🤔 she is now very complex but would have not said no even if we had known the full outcome, she is a little pickle.
Good luck what ever you decide

thomassmuggit Sun 11-Feb-18 19:51:16

2old2beamum flapjack and fasparent, you do a great job with your little ones, and obviously have a real vocation for this.

But not everyone does, and that's ok. Some people don't have a vocation to care for severely disabled children into old age, their talents lie elsewhere.

If OP reads more, and feels up to it, then hopefully, her family will be joyous and will manage. But many families would break with what you've managed with, because it's not for everyone, and different people's talents and gifts, and vulnerabilities, lie in different places.

Good luck, OP, whatever you decide. There is no shame in choosing that you're not the best parents for a particular child, and equally, lots of joy when you find you are the best parents for a child. I hope all goes well with matching.

fasparent Sun 11-Feb-18 21:41:20

Sure there are more children with disability's not adopted
and positive parents do not give birth by vocation.

thomassmuggit Sun 11-Feb-18 21:49:40

The world would be a better place if parents did only give birth if they have a vocation to parent.

The word vocation is not an insult.

Choosing to parent a disabled child by adoption is different to having an unexpected disabled child by birth. Especially when you have birth children. Many people who have disabled children biologically can't cope, which is one reason that there are many on the care system! Surely the last thing anyone wants is someone becoming a parent, from perhaps altruistic motives, beyond their capabilities, and that not working out for the child or the family?

People's gifts lie in different areas.

flapjackfairy Mon 12-Feb-18 06:49:59

I was never for one minute suggesting that all adoptors should take on children with complex needs either later in life or at any stage in
As you say thomassmuggit it is not for everyone. I was merely sharing my experience as an older adoptor and one with a child with learning disabilites as the op had requested.
I hope my post did not come across any other way. It was not intended to pressure anyone into taking on more than they can cope with or indeed want to.
Good luck with matching op. Hope it all turns out well for you .

gingerh4ir Tue 13-Feb-18 03:44:52

these children can bring total joy.

agree. but it's not just as simple. I have a birth child with severe learning difficulties and life is hard: financially (can only work very reduced hours and may have to give up work all together - there is no childcare etc), physically and mentally it is draining, it is very isolating (it has been quite an eye opener how many friends dropped us because DD has some very challenging behaviours). it put tremendous pressure on our marriage. Long term is a huge worry.

there is very little support for learning disabled children and their families. You will have to struggle and battle for everything. there are huge financial implications maybe have a look at the SN boards....

I think it is absolutely lovely that you would consider adopting a child with learning difficulties and I am not advising against it. But as a parent of a child with LD, I find things incredibly tough and this is pretty common.

I love DD to bits and wouldn't change the world for her but there are many challenges so try to get as much information to understand what challenges may lie ahead and if it is for you. a learning disabled toddler is a world away from a learning disabled teen or adult needing round the clock care.

good luck with whatever you decide.

gingerh4ir Tue 13-Feb-18 07:52:45

there are also lots of implications for a sibling of a child with complex needs. my typical daughter cannot access many activities as we do not have the time and resources to take her (due to caring responsiblies for her sibling). She cannot have friends around due to her sisters behaviours etc.

I would say a good support network (friends, family, grandparents) is crucial - due to circumstances we don't have that but your case may be very different).

thomassmuggit Tue 13-Feb-18 14:34:15

flapjack my post wasn't really pointed at you, but there is a risk, identified before, of those who can parent these children well thinking anyone can parent these children well. Probably because you're all such lovely humble people!

gingerh4ir I'm sorry some friends have shown themselves to be not good friends. It must be hard on your DD, and you, that she can't do what others can. However, hopefully she's learning empathy, and skills, and resilience, that will stand her well in life. I bet you wish she didn't have to, but the adults I know why grew up with a disabled sibling have a real kindness in them that shines.

Not everyone can manage. And those who say 'if it's a birth child, you just cope', actually, a lot of families don't. Which is why many end up in care, or residential services etc. Add adoption issues in, and it could be impossible.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best, OP. If you think you can cope with the worst case scenario the medical advisor has painted, then go for it. But if you can't, there will be other parents that can, don't feel guilty.

Imverypleasedtomeetyou Tue 13-Feb-18 18:52:37

I have a sister with complex learning needs. My parents have no idea why and have never been given direct answers as to why it might be. No one else in my family (parents, grandparents, siblings etc) have any learning needs/disabilities.

I had my children at 42 and 43, I'm now 45 and nobody ever comments on my age or being an older parent. Age isn't everything, it's how you parent that counts and I think I'm still 25 smile

2old2beamum Thu 15-Feb-18 20:51:22

I see where you are coming from and well done for your love and sticking with your DD (also your parents PP), some parents cannot, however this is where fasparent and flapjack come in and us. We have a choice we can look at the information and could say no. Without the above many SLD children would be condemned to institutional life as they were pre 1970s forgotten by society.

maggiso Tue 20-Feb-18 17:49:02

Good luck what ever you decide User 1493. I would not be without DS even though it has been a hard road at times. Being older can mean less energy - and if you are unlucky poorer health - but there are so many advantages of being an older parents such as being more confident and experienced and generally better able to calmly fight your (childs) corner and being less financially insecure as often the case early in adult life.

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