Program Supports Caregivers of Children with Special Needs

October 1, 2018, 9:52 am | Kim Brantner, Laura Sternweis

boy in wheelchair talking with father by Jaren Wicklund/, Iowa – Caregiving can be a stressful responsibility. More than one in six Americans who work full or part time report assisting in the care for a child with special needs, an adult-child family member, or elderly relative or friend. Most caregivers do not abandon their caregiving responsibilities because of work. Instead, they cope as best they can to balance what are often conflicting sets of responsibilities, says Kim Brantner, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

“Research tells us that employed caregivers struggle to balance their time and energy between work and caregiving,” said Brantner, who specializes in family life issues. “They can become exhausted and stressed. Many struggle to balance the demands of work with the stresses of caregiving. The end result can be poor health, mental distress and less life satisfaction for the caregiver.”

It can be challenging for caregivers to find the support they need, Brantner said. That is why Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” in many locations throughout the state. The program provides information, support strategies, communication techniques, stress reduction ideas and resources to assist family caregivers with their concerns related to caregiving.

ISU Extension and Outreach offers “Powerful Tools for Caregivers” classes specifically for caregivers of children or adult-children with disabilities, as well as classes for caregivers of older adults. For upcoming classes, contact an ISU Extension and Outreach county office.

“After participating in the Powerful Tools classes, caregivers of children with special needs reported overall increased confidence in their caregiving role and increased attention to their personal health, as well as overall improvement in managing their emotions,” Brantner said.

Photo credit: Jaren Wicklund/


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