January 27, 2018 | By: Paso del Norte Children’s Development Center
Categories: Transition to Adulthood
When children can use a toilet, dress, and feed themselves, we usually see them as independent. For some children with disabilities, these tasks are impossible, but others can learn how to do them.
Because of lack of time, parents often find it difficult to teach their children self-care skills that they can do themselves. Parents can feel overwhelmed by the amount of time that they must invest to teach their child how to dress themselves or how to tie their shoes.
This is a valid concern. Let’s look at it from a different perspective. If we invest the time when our children are young, we will see the rewards later. Shoe lacing can take a typical child weeks to learn; for a child with special needs, it may take months.
But is it worth it?
Lacing shoes requires fine motor skills that can lead to improved handwriting and cutting. The only way that children are going to get good at a skill is to practice over and over until they master it. This is the same concept that can be used for any other skill that parents want to teach their child.
Meal time presents parents with endless opportunities for learning. Children need to explore food textures, colors, and smells. Many children cannot use a spoon to feed themselves initially, but if we allow them to use their hands, they will eventually learn how to feed themselves. Same concept for babies: once they can hold their bottle while they are eating, we should celebrate the accomplishment.
If a child has fine motor difficulties, we can consult with an occupational therapist to determine if therapy is needed to help accomplish some tasks. It is very likely that the child will need lots of practice. Parent and child can practice together until the skill is mastered.
As the children get older, we may look at assigning chores for the child to help around the house. Parents are their child’s first teachers, work hard together and celebrate their accomplishments!
If you would like more information on helping your child build independence, this section of the website offers good information.
I got to sit on a panel discussion for disability-related issues. In addition to another parent, there were three adults with a variety of disabilities who shared their experience on everything from doctors to their time in college.