Many children can be born with physical disabilities or develop them later in life. There is a range of disabilities that fall under this category, but the common theme is that they impact your child’s ability to physically move around. As a result, many tasks are made much harder for them than a child without a physical disability. This makes it slightly more challenging to look after your child and care for them. Indeed, many parents struggle to understand how to look after a child with a physical disability, but it’s not as difficult as you may think.
In essence, you will have to adapt and make some changes that make life easier for your child. The following post will guide you through some essential steps to help you care for children with physical disabilities:
Encourage their independence as much as possible
A common mistake is to assume you need to help your child with absolutely everything. Of course, they will need assistance with various tasks, but this doesn’t mean you should constantly help them do every little thing or make decisions for them. In the end, this will take away all independence from the child, which is never a good thing.
Very young children will grow up with no understanding of how to look after themselves. They’ll lack any sort of confidence and will grow up to depend on others for help at all times. Slightly older children will feel aggrieved and upset that you’re trying to mollycoddle them and do everything for them. This creates tension in your relationship as they start to resent your assistance.
As a general rule, you should support your child, but within reason. Give your child chances to do things for themselves and make their own decisions. It’s actually very beneficial for both of you; they retain a sense of independence and you can see where their limits are. Encourage them to do things, then step in if they ask for your help.
Learn how to be patient
Patience is a key trait to have when you care for a child with a disability. As mentioned above, many kids want to do things for themselves. Now, you have to understand that a child with a disability might take longer to perform tasks than one without a disability. For example, if you tell your child to tidy their room, they could take a lot longer with a disability.
Therefore, it’s your responsibility to remain patient at all times. Never try to rush your child or give hints that they’re taking too long. This will frustrate them and knock their confidence, so what’s the point? In this situation, nobody wins, so learn how to be patient.
Research your child’s disability
The previous two points are general tips on how you should behave around your child with a disability. If you keep them in mind, you will go a long way to caring for them as best as you can. However, there will still be many other things to consider throughout their childhood. Ultimately, the biggest factor will be the disability itself. Your child can have a specific physical disability that’s totally different from someone else’s. As such, it’s impossible to provide specific advice for every single disability out there.
Instead, it’s up to you – the parents – to do your own research. When your child has been diagnosed, you should take it upon yourself to conduct as much research as possible. Your aim will be to find as much information as you can about this disability. Some of the topics to look at will include:
- Treatment and care options for the disability
- Any dietary changes or restrictions that could help
- Expected changes in the disability as they age
- How a house can be modified to help the child
You’ll come across many other topics throughout your research, but the idea is to collect as much information as possible. Now, you’re armed with far more knowledge on the disability, which equates to more knowledge on your child. You develop an understanding of how the disability impacts their life and what you can do to make things easier.
It’s crucial to do this as it helps you develop an action plan moving forwards. You’ll soon identify the key areas of their life that demand more attention than others. From here, you can create a way of caring for your child while addressing all of their critical needs – yet still keeping them as independent as can be.
Set up a daily routine
After conducting the research, you’ll pinpoint different areas of your child’s life that need attention and remain constant throughout their childhood. As such, one of the best ways to deal with this is to set up a daily routine for the two of you. This helps you create a structured plan to follow every single day, making it much easier to care for your child.
A few points to think about include:
- Setting meal times throughout the week
- Organising days and times to wash and exercise
- Booking your child in for any physical therapy sessions/medical treatment
- Setting a time to leave for school in the mornings
Little things like this make life easier for everyone. You and your child know what to expect, which makes it easier to stick to the schedule. It can reduce stress levels as you feel like you’re more in control of everything, rather than winging it as you go along. There’s no need to make this the strictest schedule in the world; a general one will still benefit you. The idea is that you both get into the same routine and understand when things need to be done, etc. A routine can also help your child be more independent as they can prepare for different things every day. When they know in advance that they have something coming up, it gives them more time to prepare for it.
Make your home more disability-friendly
Understandably, the biggest challenge for most children with disabilities is getting around. They may have equipment or physical devices to help them do this, but you still need to adapt your home to their needs. This means you may have to install things in your house, or it could be a simple case of making minor changes here and there.
For example, if your child suffers from a severe disability and can’t walk, you will most likely need a chairlift of some kind to help them get up and down the stairs. You may also need equipment in the bathroom to help them get on and off the toilet without any assistance from you. Don’t worry, you’ll learn about the different disability equipment when researching your child’s disability. Speaking to a care provider can also help you understand what stuff is most useful for your child.
Furthermore, you should make small adjustments and adaptations to different areas of your home. Here are a few examples of what we’re talking about:
- Arrange your home so there are wide spaces for your child to move around in – this is particularly useful if they use a wheelchair or have crutches. They need the extra space to make it comfortable to get around.
- Get rid of rugs or other mats that can cause trip hazards around the home.
- Ensure you have heavy furniture that can easily be held on to without falling over. This can provide your child with more assistance as they move around your home.
All three of these examples will adapt your home without making any significant changes to it. You won’t need to invest in expensive equipment, yet the adaptations make a huge difference in how your child moves around and lives in the home.
Don’t shoulder all of the responsibilities
As a parent, you feel inclined to do everything for your child. You think that you are the only person that understands the child’s disability, so you are the only one that can look after them. In turn, this puts a huge strain on your life as you basically dedicate yourself to being their full-time carer while also holding down a regular job. It’s not healthy to do this, and the better approach is to share the responsibilities with others.
Speak to different family members or friends, asking for support. If they can help, you should educate them on your child’s disability and explain the support they require. This frees you up to be a bit more independent and do other things in life. You can go out for a meal with friends without feeling guilty as someone else is looking after your child. It’s also better for the child as they don’t grow up to solely rely on you for help and support.
Follow the advice in this guide to learn how to care for a child with a physical disability. Maintain the right attitude and encourage them to be as independent as possible. Conduct as much research as possible, then implement changes that will benefit your child. At Home Caring, we offer disability care and support for anyone that needs it. If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you and your child, feel free to get in touch with us today.