Around 2.8 million children in the U.S. have disabilities, says the Census Bureau, with disabilities falling into various categories – including cognitive, neurological, and physical obstacles to overcome. If your baby or child has just been diagnosed with a condition such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, vision problems or hearing loss, or intellectual disability, you may initially feel overwhelmed by the many decisions you have to make. The road to your child’s independence, however, involves various decisions, many of which you will make over the years alongside your child’s medical or therapeutic team. The following considerations may help you make reasoned decisions that will impact your child’s long-term happiness and well-being.
In a small percentage of disabilities – for instance, in the case of children with cerebral palsy (CP) – the disability may have been caused through the negligence or wilful intent of third parties. Medical negligence, for instance, can result in a child being deprived of oxygen, resulting in brain damage. If you suspect this may have been the case for your child, seek legal advice as soon as you feel ready. A successful claim will boost your ability to access costly therapies such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy for cerebral palsy. This involves lying in a chamber with a high percentage of oxygen. Study reviews have shown that this therapy can improve motor function in children with CP, though it is just one of many therapies that can work together to improve your child’s symptoms. Other novel therapies that provide some degree of success include stem cell therapy and brain stimulation. Being financially secure will enable you to discuss the array of available therapies with your child’s doctor so you can tackle your child’s disability from a multifaceted approach.
Ensuring your child receives the financial aid they are entitled to will also help foster independence. Financial aid, free equipment, and free therapies can all play a role in helping your child feel more confident and independent. Currently, Supplemental Security Income for Special Needs is a big aid to disadvantaged families who are earning below a specific threshold. To be eligible, you also have to show that your child has ‘marked and severe functional limitations’.
The Psychological Factor
Independence is as much a matter of the mind as it is of physical circumstances. From the time your child is little, encourage them to feel like they can do anything they wish – be it play in the park with friends, go for a swim, or head to the city to catch a concert or show they would love to see. Create a strong social support system for them outside your household by joining community groups and by networking with other parents of children with disabilities. Doing so will open up a treasure chest of information on top therapists, resources, and places that can help your child feel vital and confident.
If you have a child with a disability, ensuring they are confident and independent is a task that should begin in childhood. Start off by ensuring you have all the finances and (if relevant) compensation you are entitled to. Make your child part of their community and encourage a ‘can do’ attitude so they see their disability as nothing more than a challenge that will not take away their hopes, dreams, and plans for the future.