Raising Children with Disabilities
How do you raise children with disabilities? The question appears to be direct yet it is somewhat ambiguous. It is ambiguous because there are varieties of disabilities—physical disabilities, visual impairments, auditory impairments, mental impairments, and, to some, even personality impairments. Regardless of the variety of the disabilities, however, there is a commonality on how one wants and needs to be treated in spite of being disabled.
Adults and even children, be them ‘abled,’ or ‘disabled,’ all want to be respected. It is a human need to want to know that you are appreciated as an individual. One form of respect is acceptance. Children with disabilities want to feel accepted; they want to know that their strengths as well as their weaknesses are acknowledged, and that the sense of who they are and who they can grow to be is cherished.
Another form of showing acceptance and thereby respect is through not pitying the children or babying them. Every child, even toddlers, start dressing up and imitating acts of adulthood in order to feel mature. The need to feel mature originates with the innate compulsion to be respected and to have ones voice heard.
In addition, acknowledging your child’s individuality is by making sure that you hear your child’s worries, and thoughts—even if you may not understand them. Show them that you will try to understand their viewpoint. Your child may not expect you to understand because they know that what they’re going through is something totally different from what you may be experiencing, but they need you to listen and expect you to take notice. They have the need to make sure their voice is heard.
Furthermore, a parent can exhibit their acceptance and respect by highlighting and recognizing the strengths that children have. Recognizing the ways that the children can contribute to humanity and make a difference not only makes them feel loved and appreciated but it also can give them a sense of motivation, drive and focus. They can start to believe in themselves and can come to a better understanding of how Allah (SWT) is Fair when He blesses people with different abilities and strengths. If my parents did not recognize my abilities in writing or encourage me then I may not have even tried to pursue writing; I probably wouldn’t have found it easy to believe in myself. It is thus very important to show acceptance through encouragement and by noticing your child’s strengths.
When you recognize and encourage your child’s growth by cultivating their strengths then you can illustrate how you will provide the means and tools to help them succeed. This will ensure that they do not feel frustrated when bumping into every day obstacles. This would also help them to focus on their strengths with less worry over their struggles. It furthermore shows consideration of them and furthers their feelings of acceptance because they get to see how you as a parent will take the time and effort to help them to reach their maximum potential. The children, especially those with disabilities, can thereby feel a sense of regard and approval.
Children may feel frustrated when you as a parent try to make them face and overcome their struggles, but a good way to show them respect and acceptance is by making sure that he or she understands that you are not there to change them or to ‘fix’ their disabilities, but there to help them grow. Let them know that even if there are no improvements you would still love them and honor them for who they are; that you’re proud of them for trying and for never giving up.
It can and should be concluded that children with disabilities have the same needs and desires as children or even adults that are able—they all need respect and acceptance, and the only difference with a ‘disabled,’ child is that they deserve to have your regard for them shown more.