A child’s special needs don’t define who they are. Yet often, children with special needs may be overprotected with the intention of keeping them safe and comfortable. It is difficult for parents to find a balance between letting their child explore and keeping them safe. It takes a lot of work to help them attain their potential while also keeping them protected and providing assistance as needed. Helping children with special needs become independent will not only make them more confident but also more capable and well equipped for life ahead.
We’ve heard plenty of success stories of people with disabilities. Nick Vujicic who overcame his disability to become a famous motivational speaker or Stephen Hawking who became a prominent and exemplary scientist or Sudha Chandran who went on to become a famous dancer and actress despite an accident that left her with an amputation. This is proof that a disability must not and cannot stop us from achieving big things in life. How we treat a disability defines how we might let it limit our potential and independence.
Big dreams always start with little steps. Read on to find out how you can foster independence in children with special needs.
Don’t do things for them: Depending on their disability, children can complete a few tasks on their own or will find a way to if you give them the chance. If they can undress by themselves, let them, if they can put on their shoes, don’t do it for them because you want to help. Involve them in household chores that match their abilities to foster independence. While it might be faster and easier for you to do it for them, it won’t help them in the long run. Start them young and let them have as much practice being independent.
Let them explore: Don’t stop them from trying out new things and facing new situations. Giving them space lets them understand the way things and the world works. Assess the risks and ensure basic safety and let them do the rest. Let them go through the experience, make mistakes and learn from them. Hovering around them will only make them give up too easily or not try at all.
Make them feel empowered by offering choices: This works across different situations and is the first step towards teaching independence; making choices. While you can’t let young children make all the decisions, you can make them feel empowered and valuable by letting them make choices. An apple or banana for snack, or which book they’d like to read at bedtime, or if they’d like to play ball or ride their bike at playtime? Offer them choices so they get plenty of practice in making decisions.
Use assistive devices as needed: While there are plenty of them available, ensure you are using them appropriately for what your child truly needs assistance with. For some, it could a communicative device, for others a special chair. Technology can help your child with a disability live their life more independently and comfortably. Do your research, pick the devices and apps that can benefit your child and then teach them how to use them.
Enrol for therapy: Collaborating with a therapist and setting goals for your child can help bring about the best outcomes for your child. A therapist will provide guidance on skills to work on while providing you strategies that will be appropriate and effective for your child.
Let them learn self-care and hygiene: This is a core life skill and we must teach children with special needs to be independent in this aspect as much as possible. We must start them young, even if it means assistance at first. Brushing teeth, dressing up, combing their hair are some of the activities you could start with. Using visuals and schedules in their routine can be very helpful in fostering independence and letting the child feel in control.
Foster their interests: Find out what makes them tick. What do they enjoy? Once you have that figured, help them develop that interest. Not only will it build their confidence but also give them plenty of opportunities to participate and interact with other children. They can participate in almost any activity and will need probably only some slight adaptation but let them give it a go
In as many situations as possible treat them like you would typical children. When it comes to correcting behaviour, gentle disciplining or giving them freedom, what’s usually good parenting for a child without a disability is usually good for a child with special needs too.
Don’t let your child’s special needs hold them back. They must realise how much they can do on their own and with what they need help with. The more we treat them typically, the lesser they will see their disability as something different and restrictive. Independence is a key life skill that is indispensable, so give your child plenty of practice and opportunity to nurture independence.
If you have a child with special needs and would like some guidance, reach out to our therapists at Tactopus. We are here to help.