Melanie Reach was born with multiple disabilities, including vision loss and cerebral palsy. She shares some important advice for parents who are raising children with disabilities. Melanie bases these tips on her experiences with her own parents.
Self advocacy is one of the most important aspects a parent can teach a child with a disability. Melanie says, “It’s okay to be your child’s voice as long as is needed.” She goes on to discuss the significance of explaining to your child about why he or she may be considered ‘unique’, and how as a parent one can teach their child how to be assertive without being mean. Melanie suggests having your child practice these self-advocacy skills with a loved one before going out into the world.
Melanie refers to children as having ‘magical thinking’ in reference to the concept of time. Children want immediate gratification. They may get discouraged if it takes them longer to complete a task. Melanie believes that parents should give praise for their child’s perseverance. Start by acknowledging their progress, no matter how small it may seem, because it could be a building block for self confidence.
“This may mean your child expects results from (his or her) efforts more quickly than (his or her) capabilities allow. It's important to show your child that you have faith (they) will succeed.”
“It's important to realize that the past doesn't have to define the present moment or anything in the future,” says Melanie. Acceptance is key when raising a child with a disability. Accepting what is will have a positive impact on the future.
“That acceptance will allow you to think more positively, which will impact all actions for the better.”
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