Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Navigate Life Texas: Resources for kids with disabilities and special needs

Letting Go

12/09/2016 | Published by: Kelly Mastin

As children get older, their parents let go little by little. Growing children earn privileges and freedom. They gain independence and try new things. The parent’s role, once large and important, becomes smaller. Parents’ voices fade as the child makes more of their own decisions and gains confidence.

That’s exactly how it is intended to happen. This process is how a child becomes a responsible adult. Little by little, even when the child has a disability.

Parents of a child who has a disability are sometimes even slower to let go. It is with the best of intentions that parents do not allow their child independence. They protect them. They do things for them. But this is not ideal for the child or the parent.

As the parent of two children with disability labels, I have learned that I can be deliberate in choosing to let go along the way. Here are some examples and ideas of how I let go:

  1. My daughter (age 14) chooses her activities. She enjoys music so she plays cello in the orchestra at school. She enjoys cheerleading so she chose which type of cheer squad to join. Because my daughter enjoys music and dancing, she attended the school dance.
  2. My son (age 15) and daughter pick what they wear each day. My son chooses from the clothes in his drawers. My daughter tells me what color she wants and decides between long/short pants and long/short sleeves.
  3. Both of my children have attendants who spend time with them. They go on outings in the community without me. Sometimes the outings are planned by me or by the attendant. Other times, the outings are requested by one of my children.
  4. Both of my children have been to camp. They’ve been on field trips with their class. They’ve been to parties…without me.
  5. My kids choose their own books, TV shows and movies. They both search YouTube for videos to watch.

These steps to letting go may seem small, but they each come with their own challenges. They require responsibility. They allow independence and foster choice and self-determination.

The challenges? Both of my children have developmental disabilities. My daughter is mostly non-verbal and doesn’t understand danger. My son struggles with social situations and has an explosive temper. They both require accommodations for these activities. As a result, each child’s situation requires much planning and forethought.

But it is important that my growing children are allowed to grow. It is important that they are allowed to make choices. It is vital that they take risks. It is critical that they develop relationships with others. It makes sense that their lives are governed by their own preferences. It is right that they are stretched.

Disability or not, parents need to let their children go. Let them grow. Let them go.

You can find more information on children transitioning to adulthood on this website.

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