Singer Ronan Tynan is not only one of the top tenors in the world, he’s also a licensed medical doctor and a world-class athlete. And he did all this as a double-leg amputee. How did he achieve all of this? He credits his father: “My father was easy to love. He told me I was ‘terrific.’ Eventually, you believe it. You do. You believe it because you see in others what others see in you — a strength waiting to be harnessed.”
If you have a disabled child, or know someone who is caring for a disabled child, here are 10 ways to encourage disabled children:
1. Number 1 Fan
Let your child know you believe in him/her fully and without condition. Show your commitment often with both actions and words. Your child might feel like the world only sees in them the disadvantage they have been dealt. He should never feel the same from his own parents. You are his number 1 fan.
2. The Village
“It takes a village to raise a child.” This is especially true in the case of a child with a disability. Raising children is very stressful and even more so in this case. A parent can easily succumb to the pressure. That can lead to anger and even abuse. Enlist the help of close friends and family. Others taking a vested interest in your child will benefit both of you. Seek outside sources such as your place of worship or civic organizations. Many offer help in this area. Buddy Break is one such organization that is set up to help parents cope, providing a break for parents to catch their breath and regroup. The emotional stability of your family will be greatly enhanced if you are not overloaded and highly stressed.
3. Focus On Strengths
With every disability also comes an advantage. Usually what is lost is made up with a significant increase in another area. A child without sight might have a highly developed ability to hear. An autistic child might be a genius in complex problem solving. Children without hands learn to use their feet in the same manner. Nature provides a way to succeed. Encourage your child not to see themselves in a negative light. Instead, focus on the positive and special abilities that have been provided to them.
A great song goes “You say it best, when you say nothing at all.” Sometimes there is not going to be a solution. At times, there will be sadness. What your child needs from you most is to know you will always be there. The security of your arms wrapped around her tightly. Not saying a word, but just understanding.
Find special ways to always include your child in normal family activities. Perhaps your child is paralyzed from the neck down. He will not be helping you slice carrots. He can, however, read the recipe out loud to you as you cook. Teach your child to participate and to feel needed. Every person wants to feel useful.
6. Spiritual Guidance
God loves all children. Your child should certainly know this. Faith creates great miracles. Give them comfort in the knowledge that it will not always be this way for them. Life on earth is short and quite often painful. But eternity promises glorious abundance and joy. Greater days lie ahead. Pray together daily.
No child should be locked away from society and sheltered in the name of protection. Help your child win friends and acceptance. Encourage them to participate in extra-curricular activities at school. Practice frequently played games with them at home so they become skilled at them. Role-play things like meeting a new person or public speaking. Help them build a social and emotional support system of friends.
All children require discipline to structure their life. Do not allow sympathy or difficult circumstances to prevent this with a disabled child. They must learn the consequences of their actions. Lack of discipline leads to unhappy children and unhappy parents. Set firm guidelines of expected behavior and stick to them.
9. Role Models
Give your child examples of those like him who have achieved greatness. Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder – Hall of fame musicians despite blindness. The world of sports provides thousands of examples. Show them they are not alone and can overcome any obstacle.
10. Just Be Normal
Mostly, just be yourself. Your child does not wish for you to have her disability. She just wants to be treated the same as anyone else. Laugh with her. Cry with her. Look at her with respect and make her feel needed. She’s a person…the same as you.
Huddle Up Question
I think you’re terrific because…