caregiving, children, disabilities, lived experiences, qualitative research, special needs



  1. Redquest, Brianne K. MSc
  2. Reinders, Nicole BSc
  3. Bryden, Pamela J. PhD
  4. Schneider, Margaret PhD
  5. Fletcher, Paula C. PhD


Purpose: Among Canadian children 14 years or younger, an estimated 202 350 (3.7%) are currently diagnosed with a disability.1 Because of the amount of care and attention children with disabilities require, parents of these children may also experience tribulations. For the sake of this article, tribulations refer to difficulties. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to examine the lived experiences of caregivers of children with disabilities.


Design: A qualitative approach, more specifically phenomenology, was utilized to guide this research.


Sample: Eight participants (5 biological mothers, 2 adoptive mothers, and 1 father) were recruited from a facility in Southern Ontario that serves children with physical and developmental disabilities.


Methods: Background questionnaires were completed, and 1-on-1 semistructured interviews were conducted with 8 caregivers of children with disabilities.


Results: The following themes emerged: (1) life as a caregiver, (2) impact on siblings as perceived by the parents, and (3) changes as a result of having a child with disabilities. This article addresses only the theme "life as a caregiver."


Conclusion: Overall, the research study revealed the lived experiences of raising a child with special needs by specifically focusing on the lives of caregivers. Despite the many difficulties encountered, caregivers identified positive aspects associated with raising a child with special needs and the coping mechanisms that assist them in managing their stressors.


Implications: This research study provides valuable information regarding the lived experiences of caregivers of children with special needs. It may assist other individuals in similar situations by providing comfort knowing that they are not the only ones encountering this journey. It may also allow them to look at their life story with a more positive outlook. It can offer these individuals with coping mechanisms that may assist them in dealing with their stresses. Lastly, it contributes to research that examines the lives of caregivers of children with disabilities by relying on the voice of the caregivers.