Bradley: Caregivers of retarded, developmentally disabled have wide range of emotions

By Greg Miller

Teena Bradley, vice president of the new Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) of Carter County, says caregivers of those who are retarded or developmentally disabled experience a wide range of emotions.
   "We're tired, and we're exhausted," she said. "We're confused at what professionals may share with us or tell us what is going on with our children," she said. "We hit many, many brick walls when it comes to raising our children with developmental disabilities or mental retardation."
   Those brick walls "finding resources, exactly who to talk to in a particular agency, maybe a particular counselor or professional. A lot of times, our children go misdiagnosed in what their developmental disabilities are. I think that's a major issue for these families."
   A "crisis need" exists for respite programs for caregivers, according to Bradley. "There isn't a lot of experienced respite providers around. We're very shorthanded as far as respite is concerned.
   "One of the programs that we will offer to families will be one of the respite programs. Under the ARC chapter, you can provide many services for families of children with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. One will be a respite program through the ARC. Of course, we will offer many, many more programs."
   Respite programs play a big role in helping caregivers to cope with their individual situations, according to Bradley. "Speaking from experience, you have to take it a day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time," she said. "There's just no way of getting through your daily activities with just taking whatever may come in your life until you do get respite.
   "I think it does help you get through the week in knowing you will have some type of assistance in what you need to do in your home as far as doing errands or maybe getting something done without having to worry about who is going to watch your child or who is going to be responsible enough or safe enough to place your child with that individual."
   Bradley would like to see "more services for families" and that the community will come together to support the ARC organization. "Then we will all be in one accord in providing services, not just for children with mental retardation or developmental disabilities, but for all children and for all parents who don't know what resources are out there and don't know how to implement the services or to find that right niche for their child to be self-sufficient in whatever community that they may live in ."
   ARC will need a lot of help from the community, including agencies, professionals, and the school systems, according to Bradley. "One person just can't do it alone, or one organization can't do this alone," she said. "We'll need assistance to make it work."
   For more information, call Ellie Hjemmet, Arc's president, at 772-4146; Bradley, with "I Pinky Promise," at 547-0517; Dr. Jerri Lyons, Director of Special Education for the Carter County School System, at 547-4011; Kim Lavin, Director of Federal Projects for the Elizabethton City School System at 547-8109.