Steps for parenting a child with a disability
The following is another in a series of parenting tips brought to you by The Sunday Gleaner in association with the National Parenting Support Commission.
Offering the appropriate parental support to a child with a special disability or to one who requires additional attention, the norm can be a roller coaster of experiences and emotions for parents.
It should, however, be a ride built on the foundation that all children need love, encouragement and support.
Positive reinforcement given to all children ensures that they emerge with a strong sense of self-worth, confidence, and the determination to keep going even when things get tough.
In searching for ways to help children with special disabilities, parents should remember that they are looking for ways to help them help themselves.
Your job as a parent is not to 'cure' the disability but to empower your child with the social and emotional tools required to work through challenges.
Parents are reminded that they should:
1 Keep things in perspective, as a disability isn't unbeatable. Parents should empower their children by providing plenty of emotional and moral support.
2 Become your child's greatest advocate. Raising a child with a disability may become frustrating but you have a responsibility to become a proactive parent and seek the special help needed for your child.
3 As a parent, your influence outweighs all others, so if you decide to approach your child's disability with optimism, hard work and a sense of humour, then your child is likely to embrace your perspective.
4 Focus on your child's strengths and not just their weaknesses, as your child is not defined by their disability. Find ways to develop their gifts and talents and nurture activities through which they can excel.
5 Never be afraid to ask for help from family and friends. They may not readily offer to help but are usually very happy to assist if asked.
6 Develop hobbies for your child and yourself. This allows you to recharge your batteries while also engaging in fun activities with your child. For a child with a disability, being around peers outside of the family and school network often presents them with opportunities to interact with other children and not feel isolated.
7 Educate your child about the importance of speaking to you or a teacher about issues such as bullying. Children with disabilities may become more vulnerable to bullying, as they may be perceived as being 'different' by their peers.
As a parent, the way you behave and respond to challenges will have a great impact on your child. While displaying optimism and a positive attitude towards your child won't solve the problems associated with a disability, it most certainly can provide the hope and confidence that they will need to lead successful lives.