Experiences of immigrant mothers of children with developmental disabilities: Social support and health promotion
by Dr. Nazilla Khanlou & Dr. Luz Maria Vazquez
When children have disabilities, mothers often take on the primary task of caregiving and negotiating appropriate support across sectors. There is some research to show that added challenges related to this role can have an impact on mothers’ health. Research shows that mothers caring for children with disabilities are more likely to report poor or only fair health, compared with mothers caring for children who do not have disabilities (Burton, Lethbridge, & Phipps, 2008). In addition to the challenges these mothers experience, immigrant mothers of children with disabilities face unique barriers. For example, immigrant mothers have great difficulty in accessing formal and informal social support, as reported in studies from the Office of Women’s Health Research Chair in Mental Health, led by Dr. Nazilla Khanlou. (Khanlou et al., 2013a; Khanlou et al., 2013b; Khanlou et al., 2014; Jennings, et al., 2014; Khanlou et al., 2014). In one of these studies, we looked at the perceived stressors of Chinese immigrant mothers and their experiences in accessing services for their children with developmental disabilities. Mothers reported a number of concerns including financial insecurity, transportation difficulties, feelings of loss of face, and blaming of mothers (Su et al., 2014).
Although we have identified some of the difficulties immigrant mothers are experiencing, we know little about what constitutes relevant health promotion initiatives when they have children with developmental disabilities. Scant attention has been given to what mothers themselves identify as feasible and meaningful health promotion practice.
In collaboration with Kerry’s Place Autism Services, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and University of Toronto, an upcoming community-based study will look at what immigrant mothers of children with developmental disabilities identify as relevant health promotion practices. Through the study’s findings, we aim to inform service providers and policy makers in their efforts to produce effective health promotion practices for diverse populations.
We are currently recruiting immigrant mothers who have one or more children with a developmental disability, and who feel comfortable speaking in English, to take part in this study. For more information on this study, or to find out how to get involved, click here. This study is funded by the $15K Challenge Women’s Xchange Program at Women’s College Hospital.
To learn more about the Women’s Health Research Chair in Mental Health, visit www.yorku.ca/nkhanlou/
Burton, P., Lethbridge, L., & Phipps, S. (2008). Children with disabilities and chronic conditions and longer-term parental health. Journal of Socio-Economics, 37(3), 1168-1186.
Jennings, J., Khanlou, N., & Su, C. (2014). Public health policy and social support for immigrant mothers raising disabled children in Canada. Disability and Society, 29(10), 1645-1657.
Khanlou, N. & Haque, N. (2013a). Information Sheet 1: Voices of immigrant mothers of children with disabilities: Availability and use of social support. Toronto: York University.
Khanlou, N. & Haque, N. (2013b). Information Sheet 2: Research to action: Social support needs of immigrant mothers of children with disabilities. Toronto: York University.
Khanlou N, Haque N, Sheehan S, & Jones G. (2014). Information Sheet 3: Services providers views of social support and immigrant mothers of children with disabilities. Toronto: York University.
Khanlou, N., Haque, N., Sheehan, S., & Jones, G. (2014). “It is an issue of not knowing where to go”: Service providers’ perspective on challenges in accessing social support and services by immigrant mothers of children with disabilities. Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health.
Su, C., Khanlou, N., & Haque, N. (2014). Information Sheet 4: Chinese immigrant mothers of children with developmental disabilities: Perceived stress and social support. Toronto: York University.