Children With Disabilities Tips

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How can I make living with a child with a disability easier for me and the child?

Children with Disabilities: Living with a Child with a Disability

Living with a child with a disability can be challenging at times, whether the disability is physical or intellectual. Extra care must be taken for children with disabilities, which may include more doctors' visits than the average child, special diets, physical therapy either at home or at a physical therapist's office and special education classes.

In addition to the obvious, the parent of a child with a disability must also deal with the emotional side of things. Children at school can and do say things that might hurt someone's feelings. A child without a disability may shrug it off or may even fight with their taunter, but a child with a disability may be confused and hurt, not realizing that other children taunt everyone and she or he is not being singled out. Also, some adults do not know how to act around children with disabilities and may stare or point, causing the child with the disability to feel uncomfortable and unaccepted.

The best thing a parent can do is to explain to the child that people do not understand and sometimes do not think about hurting another's feelings. If the school allows it, parents of children with disabilities may be able to set up an educational seminar where parents of children with disabilities speak about the various afflictions such as cerebral palsy, having to use a wheelchair, blindness, deafness, and brain damage and how it affects the ability to learn. Parents can also give students tips on how to help a child with a disability—whether it is help reaching something, help getting up a hill in a wheelchair or help with schoolwork.

   
Just because a child has a mental disability, does that mean he or she cannot learn?

Children with Mental Disabilities

Most times, a child's mental disability is complicated by other problems, both physical and emotional. The biggest physical problems are difficulty with hearing, sight and/or speech as these further complicate the child's attempt at communication and learning.

Prior to the ‘80s, parents, on the advice of professionals, would institutionalize a child with a mental disability. Sometime during the ‘80s (depending on location), training school-type institutions were deemed unconstitutional and children and adults were transferred to group homes. A group home has a family setting. Generally, no more than six children or adults were housed in group homes. These homes are staffed with people who are trained to take care of the various physical and emotional problems that a person with a mental disability may have.

Now, parents are encouraged to keep a child with a mental disability at home and to get the child involved in the community. Most states guarantee that a child with a mental disability gets educational and other services at the expense of the public.

A child with a mental disorder should have a comprehensive evaluation to determine what his or her strengths and needs are. These tests include general medical tests, neurological tests, psychological tests, hearing/speech/vision tests and physical therapy. The test results are discussed with the family and the school and are used to develop a treatment and education plan.

Children with mental disabilities often have the ability to learn—they tend to learn slower. It takes more repetitions of certain material for that child to grasp the concept of what is being taught. Children with mental disabilities can grow into adults that contribue to the community—they can learn skills to hold a job, manage a bank account and do their own shopping.

   
Should children with physical disabilities be allowed to participate in sporting activities?

Children with Physical Disabilities

A child with a physical disability should be encouraged to participate in physical activity and sports. Before participation, the child should be evaluated by his or her doctor so that a sport can be chosen that will best benefit the child.

Participation in sports and other physical activities can improve overall health, including increasing muscle strength, muscle flexibility, endurance, balance and motor skills. Participation also improves cardiovascular efficiency and supports self-concept and body awareness.

While all of that is very important to the health of a child with a physical disability, social interaction is also very important. Participation in sport activities increases social interaction, allowing a child with a physical disability to feel more accepted, elevating the child's self-esteem.

Parents should check local venues for programs that offer sports for a child with a physical disability. The people who run these types of programs are experienced with working with disabled children, and with the help of parents, the child and the child's doctor can help choose an activity that is appropriate for the child.

   
Can my child learn from sites on the internet?

Websites for Children with Disabilities

Check Disaboom.com to be sure that various activities fit the abilities of the child with the disability. Take into consideration the child's age, interest in subject matter and skill level. Sites like National Geographic offer elementary- to middle-school age children and children with disabilities the chance to learn about nature, history and geography.

A catch-all site with many different activities and levels of activities for children of all ages and abilities is bjpinchbeck.com. This site is especially helpful for helping children with their homework.

If a website is needed more for informational purposes for parents and teachers, Afterschool.gov provides many resources and articles about children with disabilities. This website provides links to all sorts of information for children with disabilities, including education and employment, emotional behavior problems, disorders, information on disabilities in infants and toddlers, and help for educators interested in learning about policies and practices related to improved access to a general curriculum.

   
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Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.