I have decided to write a series of articles about the hardship that befalls families with special needs children. My aim is not to incite pity or misery in the reader and I found it hard to avoid whilst using the common terms to describe the reactions one may have in a special needs family.
Basically that was the background for my little pocket theory on HAR – Heightened Alertness Reaction. I found that the word “stress” and even more so “post traumatic stress disorder” tends to medicalize the reactions and even might have a negative ring to them. As many parents of disabled children might tell you, there is also a lot of love and joy in the parenting of these special kids and my wish was to describe the situation and acknowledge the hardship without bringing sickness and negativity to the debate.
Heightened Alertness Reaction (HAR) is exactly what it says. The state you are in after being on high alert for a length of time. It is by no means a new discovery and some might say that most women experience that after giving birth and being on alert for the first many months. It is not meant to be a medical term, but rather a frame of understanding for both members of the special needs family and the professionals that work with them in various aspects of life.
The difference between the “normal” situations of high alertness and the life, you lead as a special needs family is the duration of time, in which you need to be on alert and the lack of circumstance and support, that is usually given when a new mother etc. Also when talking about duration it is important to note that this duration is often unknown in a special needs family and as such you can experience years of limbo not unlike an indefinite custody without trial.