Independence? “Ha!” you say.
So your child has a disability. Yes, this usually means they have unique needs. But there is a life lesson that all children, even those with disabilities, must learn: independence.
Let’s get creative.
A young man I know has autism. Let’s call him Sam. Sam is 14 and still needs help going to the bathroom and other personal tasks. But Sam’s mother is determined to teach him how to do a few things for himself. It takes time. Sam may not get it right away, especially because he’s used to having most things done for him. But the payoff is huge for both Sam and those who love him.
Instead of refilling Sam’s cup, his mother has been working on teaching him how to pour his own juice. I know, I know – big deal, juice. But for Sam’s mother – a single mom of 4 boys (2 with disabilities) – every little victory is huge.
Even if your child is nonverbal or has mobility issues, there are still choices they can make. “Do you want to wear this or that?” or “The blue cup or the red?” Giving your child the option to make their own decisions can empower them to feel more confident and have the courage to try other things on their own.
An assistance animal for your child can be a powerful tool for gaining independence. Animals help with certain tasks and offer both companionship and opportunities for your child to go out on their own.
Everybody values the right and ability to make their own decisions. In a world where many kids feel helpless, the smallest changes can make a big difference in self-confidence and sense of self-worth. Remember, your child will one day become an adult with rights, needs, and wants. Being as independent as possible will serve them well as they navigate the world.
And because you won’t always be available, it’s especially important to ensure your child can take care of themselves and that they are aware of their rights and medical needs.
For more ideas, take a look at Encouraging Independence is Critical for Kids with Special Needs and Ask the Experts-Fostering Independence for a Child with Special Needs for more information on fostering independence.
And be sure to take a look at Personal Stories about People with Disabilities on this website for even more ideas.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.