When you find out that your child is going to be disabled it can make many new parents very anxious and reading every single article they can find about that disability that will hopefully tell them what to do. Parents of newly disabled kids become very concerned about their kid’s future and wonder if because of all the challenges they will be able to thrive like everyone else. Reading informational articles is good for learning about disability but there are some things you will not read in an informational article because only disabled people can teach these lessons and many of these articles are written by people without them. Disabled kids will thrive like your abled children will but sometimes we might have different career paths and do different things because of our disability. Disabled people are successful just like abled people and if you are worried they won’t then stop worrying because they can achieve just as much. If you have worries about having a disabled child here are a few things about being disabled.
There will be bullying- If you are a new parent that last thing you want to hear is that your child will likely face bullying and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Abled people sometimes will face bullying when going to school but as a disabled person, you will be bullied more than your abled friends. When I was going to school I was bullied starting from elementary school all throughout high school because people couldn’t see past my disability and treated as if I was stupid and there was something wrong with me. In high school, I was even bullied by teachers who were supposed to be setting the example but instead were reminding me of how I wasn’t normal. At first, I didn’t let this bother me but after a year of hearing this, it got it my head and messed with my mental health. When you send your kids to school you have no control over what happens and can’t prevent bullying but what parents can do is teach their kids that there is nothing wrong with being disabled and having a disability doesn’t make you stupid. If your kids understand that before going to school it will make them more confident so if they are bullied it doesn’t bother them as much because they will know it’s not true.
Your kids want to be listened to- If you are the parent of a disabled child you might know more medical facts about our disability than we do but regardless of how many informational articles you read there will still always be something that disabled people can educate you on even if you are their parent and have read every article in existence. As parents, it’s natural to want to help your kids make their life easier but sometimes your not and are in fact making it harder. Listen to your kids when they tell you something is more difficult because we are the ones living with the condition and have more experience in what works and what doesn’t not you! We don’t have to read articles to get tips on how to thrive while being disabled or to have a better understanding of our disability but we learn through many years of trial and error.
Disabled people need disabled friends- Having abled friends can be very difficult for many disabled people because we can’t openly talk about our feelings to our abled friends without risking someone taking it the wrong way and thinking we are just being a jerk for having such thoughts. Disabled people need disabled friends to talk about these feelings and won’t judge for it because we need friends to let these feelings out. Without my friend Karly, I’d be lost because I wouldn’t have anyone to talk to about these feelings and would become very depressed. We both have completely different disabilities that neither us can relate to but we can relate to the challenges of a disability and some of the frustrations that come with it which is what makes having disabled friends so great! You don’t need to have the same disability as your friends but being around other disabled people will give you comfort and more meaningful than having the same conversation with your parents ever will.
It’s okay to ask for help- When you have a disabled child you want to do your best to encourage independence and teach your children to do as much for themselves as they possibly can. Sometimes help might be needed but disabled people are afraid to ask because some people see it as a sign of weakness. Encourage them to do things by themselves but if they need help teach them that asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Sometimes tasks aren’t possible by ourselves and we need a little help so make sure you’re trying to understand there is nothing wrong with asking for it.
There will be times of frustration- When you are disabled there will be days when your child becomes very frustrated with their disability that they might resist therapy and want you to do everything for them. Dropping everything for your kids and doing things for them might seem like the solution but it’s not. Your kids will never learn how to do things independently if you are always doing things for them and if moving out ever were to be a possibility it won’t be if they can’t do things for themselves. Sometimes I yell out of frustration and say things that I probably shouldn’t because I am frustrated with the challenges of my disability but it is perfectly normal to feel this way. Teach your kids how to use this anger and frustration instead of babying them and making them dependent on others because this will not work long term. Kids might not appreciate all the therapy sessions when they are young but as they get older and can do more for themselves there will be a greater appreciation for it.
Praise when reaching small goals- When your disabled child reaches a small or big goal it is important you recognize that and praise them for it. Goals can be more difficult to achieve when your disabled and when you show that what your child has done is an accomplishment it will have a positive impact on them. Don’t ignore this because even something that seems so small can be a huge accomplishment for many disabled people.
Find disabled role models- Parents of disabled children can only do so much to help their children accept their disability and sometimes even if you are doing everything right it’s not enough because you can’t relate to what they are going through. If your disabled child is struggling they need a disabled role model whether that be a disabled blogger or someone you know in person that they connect with that will help them see things from a whole different perspective. Disabled people sometimes have a hard time seeing that you can be disabled and thriving and if your kid can’t see that you need to show them someone who is.
Your language matters!- I can’t stress enough of how important it is for parents, relatives and close friends to be mindful of the language they use around disabled people. If you use the wrong terminology around your child it will have a very negative impact on them and will make it difficult for people who haven’t accepted it to see the positives about their disability. When you use words like retarded or wheelchair-bound it can give off the impression that you think we are stupid or unable to do things for ourselves. Don’t use these terms along with many others around your children unless you know they don’t mind it. If you are unsure ask them or don’t use them at all!
Pointing is rude!– I see so many curious kids point at disabled kids because they want to know what happened to them and parents continue to let their kids do it and say nothing about it. You are better off going up to someone and asking them what their disability than pointing at them because pointing is rude! Teach them that disabled kids are different and might have more challenges but not to point.
Parenting a disabled child will face more challenges but it is not as scary as you may think. It can be scary at times as you don’t know what the future holds for them but remember that what you are going through is not any different than what your child is coping with. Some people still struggle with disability acceptance well into adulthood as it’s different for people who actually have the disability because coping strategies that work for our caregivers won’t necessarily have the same effect on us. Be there for your kids and try and understand that it’s not always easy but they can get through this. If you can’t get your child to see that then find someone who has a better understanding and can help see things differently. As parents, it is natural to want to have all the answers but disability is not always all black and white, and sometimes even your parents that who are supposed to be all-knowing don’t have the answer as to why some things happen. Do your best to explain what you can to your kids and don’t fear telling them that you don’t have all the answers! Some things like why some people are disabled and others aren’t no one knows so you don’t have to pretend you have the answers for that. Disabled people will eventually figure it out so you are better of telling the truth from the start. Have you raised a disabled child? What have you learned about raising your child?