3 Unexpected Factors to Help Your Disabled Child Succeed

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This blog was written by Caitlin Turner of Disabled and Successful.

You want your child to live a great life. You want them to have the things all kids are supposed to grow up and have. You want them to be healthy, build meaningful friendships, develop a sense of independence and purpose, and mostly you just want them to live a full and happy life. 

The world says that the path to success is through good grades in school, improving one’s cognitive and physical abilities, and trying to be as non-disabled as possible. While those things may be helpful, I’ve learned from successful adults with disabilities a few other factors that may be a bit more useful. Here are the top 3 unexpected factors that have helped successful people with disabilities live happy and full lives:

Build Resilience

Resilience is the ability to keep trying when things are hard or you fail. It is the ability to get back up again when you’ve fallen. It’s filling out job application #101 when the first 100 employers rejected you or never replied to you. Many successful people with disabilities actually attribute their disabilities to teaching them resilience. While life can be a great teacher, you can also help your child build this skill today. 

One of the best ways to build resilience is to encourage your child to solve their own problems. When you see your child struggling to do something it can be easy to swoop in and help them, but failing and trying different ways to solve a problem is how they practice and build resilience. The tasks they try should of course be individual to every child. The best activities for them to practice are ones they’re already showing interest and motivation to do themselves. Encourage your child to keep going without doing it for them. You may be surprised!

Encourage Autonomy

While independence means doing things by yourself, autonomy means making your own decisions. As someone with a disability, your child is going to need help to do certain things and they won’t be independent with everything. They can however have agency, be a part of decision making, and play an active role in their own life.

One way to encourage autonomy is to talk to your kids, not about them. This may sound obvious, but it can be really hard! I personally struggle with this one all the time. When kids don’t have the communication skills to speak for themselves, it’s easy to default to talking to their doctors or teachers ABOUT them. Simply making the switch to talking TO them, even if they are non-verbal, lets them know that they are a person with agency, not an object to be talked about. They are an important part of their life. 

Find Role Models

Role models do something that you as a non-disabled parent can’t do. Role models demonstrate to your child how to move through the world as a disabled person. They can lead your child through the difficult experiences of discrimination and prejudice, they can talk about successes and failures that your child can more fully relate to, and they can provide a vision of possibility for your child’s future. It helps them dream big! Role models can be an important example to your child of how to live in this world with a disability.

One great role model to have is someone who has interests similar to your child’s. This can be a great opportunity to find someone who your child can relate to in their passions, whether it be music, acting, sports, or something else. It doesn’t matter as much whether this role model’s disability is the similar to your child’s; they can still relate to the experience of being disabled. You can help your child find a role model by searching online for influencers and advocates with disabilities. There are a lot of people with disabilities doing cool things on the internet!

Your child truly can live a wonderful life with their disability, and you have so much power as their parent to help them do that.

While I’ve touched on a few factors that are really the backbone of helping kids become successful, there is so much more you can learn and do! 

I consult with parents to teach them how to help their child be successful in a non-disabled world, including interacting with the school system, knowing your rights, planning for the future when your child becomes an adult, and helping you and your child both have enough time and help during your days to live the life you truly want. If you want raising your disabled child to be easier and more enjoyable, then schedule a free consultation with me!

I also have a few more resources available. My e-book Whole, Worthy, and Valuable: A Guide for Parents Raising Disabled Children provides the information every parent should receive when they first have a disabled child. I also have a blog with free advice and information both from me and from successful adults with disabilities