Encouraging Independence In Children With Special Needs

Teaching independence to children with special needs is a strenuous and lengthy journey. Parental instincts automatically drive one to nurture and protect children, but what you may not realize is that you might be removing opportunities for a child to practice their freedom. As scary as it may seem, in order to encourage independence, parents must to “let go” at times; in other words, it is a necessary process that both parents and children will benefit from in the long run. 

Explore Their Interests
All children have activities that they find interesting. Some of these may not even be on your radar, especially if your child has abilities which seem to prevent them from participating. However, focus first on the child and see their special needs as secondary. In fact, one of the best ways to motivate your child to engage in therapy which may lead to greater independence is finding what activities they want to pursue. Whether your child is interested in sports, theater, or art, find a way to participate in that activity. Consider finding an instructor or program that can accommodate those needs. Adaptive programs are available for many activities. Having an activity that brings them joy will help them feel more comfortable tackling other tasks as well.

Combine Patience with Creativity
Whether they’re learning through therapy or at school, children with disabilities often have to figure out their own way to walk through the world. Finding a way that works for them can take time. For example, if you have a child with a damaged brachial plexus due to a birth injury, simple activities such as writing or feeding themselves may not be as simple. Don’t be concerned if it’s taking your child longer though. Allow them to learn a method that works for them instead of trying to take over. While it’s challenging to see them struggle, kids are great problem-solvers.

Assign Responsibility
As your child grows and develops, don’t be afraid to start assigning chores as their abilities grow. If you’re in regular contact with your child’s doctors or therapists, talk about what tasks they could take on at home. Even simple ones can encourage independence and help them feel as though they’re participating in the running of the home.
Finally, remember that gaining independence is a journey, not a race. If you’re seeing progress, then keep going. If not, then talk to your doctor about other steps and methods you can use. With time and patience, many children are going to be able to gain greater independence.

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