Parenting Children with Disabilities
Parenting a child with a disability is exhausting, overwhelming, and rewarding all at the same time. A parent’s love and guidance help that son or daughter overcome many obstacles and do what doctors, teachers and other helping professional said was impossible. A parent sees special abilities, not disabilities.
One of the most important things parents teach their children is how to help themselves. It’s hard to resist rescuing them from life’s challenges. It’s not easy to step back and encourage them to use their coping skills to cultivate independence. It is, however, necessary to guide them toward adulthood. Children with a disability especially need to know and be confident in using their resources. For them it is an exercise in overcoming obstacles without becoming disheartened. Supported by dedicated parents, they learn how to be independent and to persist in reaching goals.
Parents also need to keep in mind that they are the experts on their children and that they are their child’s greatest advocates.
Keep things in perspective. No disability is insurmountable. Everyone faces obstacles. It’s up to parents to teach a child how to deal with those obstacles without becoming discouraged or overwhelmed. They don’t let the tests, school bureaucracy, and endless paperwork distract from what’s really important—giving their child plenty of emotional and moral support.
Become your own expert. Do your own research, read about new developments in learning disability programs, therapies and educational techniques. While teachers, therapists and doctors may offer solutions, remember you’re the expert on your child. So take charge when it comes to finding the tools he or she needs in order to learn.
Be an advocate for your child. You may have to be the cheerleader of your child to get the programs and support you want for your child. It may be frustrating at times, but by remaining calm and reasonable, yet firm, you can make a huge difference for your child. Embrace your role as a proactive parent.
Your child will follow your lead. Approach learning challenges with optimism, hard work and a sense of humor and your child and the others around your child are very likely to mirror your attitude. Or at least see the challenges as a speed bump, rather than a roadblock. Focus on learning what works for your child and make it happen as the best you can. A strong support system is one of the most important predictors of success. Be sure to find others who understand your parenting philosophy and help with resources to get what you need.