Push or Pull? Teaching Independence to Kids with Special Needs

 All parents guide their children to eventual independence but the route can be steep and rocky with special needs children. Here are some approaches suggested by experts:N>


Steps to IndependenceN>

• Before you can help your child, you need to accept your own feelings about his/her disability. Allow yourself to grieve so you can go on to deal with your child as he/she is, not as you want him or her to be. Robert Naseef, a Philadelphia psychologist, writer and father of a severely autistic child, points out that many parents “never fully acknowledge their feelings of depression, fear and anger because they feel guilty even having those feelings. But only when we see something clearly can we deal with it.”N>

• Little steps count big-time. Encourage your young child to learn to make choices and have some control over his world. The choices can be as small as what book to read or what to have for dinner or what to wear. N>

• Let your child move just outside of his, and your, comfort zone every now and then, provided the environment is safe. As Foley points out, “there is dignity in risk.” Show your special needs child that you are confident he can master a new skill.N>

• Teach your child that mistakes are OK. We learn from our mistakes. Model this behavior yourself. Allow your child to talk about his fears and try to minimize the fear of mistakes or failure. Then, let him make some mistakes!

• Involve your child in charitable activities where he can help others and get concrete evidence that he actually can make a difference. Make sure his help is acknowledged afterward. Tell him when you need his help.

• Find your child’s strengths/likes/talents and make sure he has an opportunity to showcase those strengths.

– Leora Schachter