Being a parent comes with its set of unique challenges. However, being a parent of a child with a physical disability often comes with a different set of challenges. With an increased focus on disability and mobility accessibility in the United States, there is a growing push to help offer support for parents of children with physical disabilities. This article explores some tips and advice to help parents of disabled children.
Prevalence of Physical Disabilities in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), more than 50 million Americans live with a disability:
The most common disabilities are mobility limitations, such as having serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs -- affecting one in eight adults --followed by disabilities in thinking and/or memory, independent living, seeing and self care. [source]
Disabilities affect many people within the United States as well as in the world. In fact, the National Center for Education reports that in 2012-2013, there were roughly 6.4 million (13%) of children, ages 3 - 21 who received special education services in public schools.
Finally, according to the United States Census Bureau, American Community Survey:
Of the 53.9 million school-aged children (aged 5 to 17) in the U.S. civilian non institutionalized population, about 2.8 million (5.2 percent) were reported to have a disability in 2010.
11 Tips for Parents of Children with Disabilities
We've put together a brief list of 11 tips to help parents of children with disabilities. Can you think of any other tips or advice that parents should be made aware of? Take a look, and share your thoughts in the comments section!
#1 - Be resilient.
Things won’t always go as you’d planned. Work on developing resilience via: communication skills, problem-solving skills, humor, or by engaging in mutually supportive relationships.
#2 - Develop healthy habits for stress relief.
Having someone you can call, who understands what you may be going through, is crucial. You may also try things such as: deep breathing exercises, physical activity, or simply taking a brief ‘time out’.
#3 - Know when to ask for help.
There is no shame in knowing that you are feeling overwhelmed. Communicate with a close friend or family member, or possibly seek outside help in a healthcare professional.
#4 - Learn how to discipline your child.
Discipline doesn’t necessarily mean “punishment”. Rather, it is a means of educating or teaching your child to help them lead healthier more disciplined lives. Do this by: setting good examples, praising your child for his/her accomplishments, ignoring unwanted behavior while responding quickly to inappropriate behavior, and more.
#5 - Know how/where to find help.
Depending on your child’s disability, you’ll want to know what resources are at your disposal as well as contact information for people, friends, and family who will help to make up your ‘support’ network.
#6 - Help your child process his/her feelings.
Having a child with or without a disability is a 24/7 job. It is also an incredibly emotional experience. Support your child’s emotional development by helping your child learn how to do things such as: follow directions, manage/process their emotions, learning your child’s communicative style, helping your child to learn new skills to replace less-than-desirable behavior, and more.
#7 - Get educated.
Knowledge is power. Learn as much about your child’s disability as you can.
#8 - Seek support.
There is strength in numbers and in knowing that you are not alone. Find a support group or network of other parents who may be dealing with the same types of challenges.
#9 - Speak.
Talk to parents of children with disabilities. Talk to your child’s doctor and/or medical team.
#10 - Organize.
Stay organized. It helps to have a daily routine for both your child and yourself.
#11 - Prioritize.
Take care of yourself first. If you don’t make your own mental and physical health a priority, then you won’t be able to care for your child in the way that he/she needs.