Unless you are reading this guide to help another kid with special needs, you probably have a physical disability/challenge and must be thinking no one understands what it feels like to be you. Yes, nobody might know what it’s like to be you but you’re not alone. There’re many kids like you out there. Wondering if you can learn to cope with your challenges and get along with everyone else?Here’s how…
Discover Your True Self
Who are you…really? It might appear quite simple to answer. You’d probably begin by stating your name, age, the colour of your eyes or even your physical disabilities but, do these things actually qualify you as YOU? Every kid’s unique, it’s important to discover your true self –who you really are on the inside- to help you focus on your abilities and to work on your disabilities. Focusing on your abilities and positive qualities would make you feel good about yourself. Your disability doesn’t define you. You might be struggling to speak clearly, move some parts of your body, co-ordinating your breathing patterns or any other disability but you are much more than what your body allows you to do or not. It’s natural to think of your physical challenges as a part of your identity but it’s just one aspect. You still have your own sense of humour, who you’d like to be your friend, your interests and way of thinking. Nobody would choose you to be their friend just because you have all your body parts or functions working. They’d choose you because of who YOU are.
So, when asked who you are, these are some of the things that describe you:
- Your positive traits: Funny? Courageous? Smart? Reliable?
- What you love to do: hobbies and interests.
- Your favourite shows on TV.
- Your favourite books, music or video games.
- Your favourite subjects in school.
- Your talents: are you good with any musical instrument, sing and so on?
- Your dislikes.
Just as it’s healthy to focus on your positive qualities and abilities, it’s important to note that your disabilities also shape you as well. They give you the opportunity to learn new things, grow and change. Are you happy with how you view yourself? Think of the things you’d like to change. You might want to change how you treat your friends, your performance in class and so on. These things can be changed but there are some things you can’t change.
For example, you might not be able to change the fact that you’ve to move around with crutches or in a wheelchair but you can find out ways to be less limited by it. If you can carry things with your hands, you could find a way to attach your backpack to your wheelchair or put on your back when going to class. You might feel down when you see other kids do what you would love to do so easily but don’t let that make you feel any less of yourself or sad. Instead, you could do those activities with kids just like you to have a better social time.
Teach Others to Understand You
Once you’ve discovered your true self, write down your interests and everything else that describes you and share this information with your friends. If you feel writing to your teachers would help in making them understand you better, draft a letter or email to them with the help of your parents. Helping others to understand you’d go a long way in making them relating properly with you.
Your letter or email could be something like this
“My name is Susan and a new student. I’ve Cerebral Palsy (CP), so my arms and legs don’t work the normal way. I love reading books on history and having a good laugh too. Do you have any books on history that you feel would be a good read for me? I’ve trouble making friends, can you help me out with this? I love arts and wouldn’t mind learning how to work on my artistic abilities. Thanks for reading this.”
Your teachers knowing what your special needs or disabilities are would afford him/her the opportunity to employ teaching strategies for you. You can also have this discussed with your parents. Knowing yourself would help you in listing all that you’d want someone else to know especially if they’re meeting you for the first time and it would definitely be worth the try. Remember, friendships thrive on effective communication. Don’t worry if you have difficulty speaking clearly or at all, that’s why writing about who you are would help and don’t hesitate from getting your parents involved.
Get a Support Team
No matter what your physical challenges are, you should have a support team. There’re many specialists around who help kids like you, you can find out about the ones in your area with your parents and know which ones you’d like to be on your support team.
Your siblings (if you’ve any) might also need to learn how to treat and support you. Your parents should also be on your team. They’d know which other family members that’d be a great addition to your team as well as friends (You could make this choice yourself too) and teachers.
You might be wondering what you need a support team for or if you’d even need one at all.
Well, here are some of the reasons of why you need one:
- Your support team would help out with your medications if you have any, ensuring that you take them right on time.
- They’d help you in moving around if you’ve difficulty moving around yourself.
- If you have breathing problems, someone on your team would always be close by and would know what to do help you feel better.
- Apart from catering to your needs, having a support team would go a long way in curbing loneliness for you most especially if you’ve some of your friends on your team.
Your support team is there to make you feel more confident about yourself, enhance quality of life, meet your needs and make you feel less alone. Anyone who doesn’t make you feel this way doesn’t deserve to be on your team, so take time in choosing those to be on your team with your parents.
Set Goals and Stay Motivated.
Do you know that even people without disabilities find it difficult to stay motivated after setting goals? Do you know what this means?
It means fear would definitely creep in when you start setting goals too. You probably wonder if you can get and stay motivated. Being physically challenged can make even doing the simplest tasks quite difficult and since trying to deal with them would end you in frustration, you’d rather avoid them. Well, the first step is to get started. You could set a goal maybe daily, weekly or monthly and get your support team involved. It could be trying to do a task for yourself that you’d rather have another person do for you.
If you want to know more about your disability, speak to your parents or therapists for more clarity. Sometimes, knowing more about your restrictions and the other things you can do would help you in knowing where your strengths and weaknesses lie. Keep a note of your goals and the ones you’ve achieved (like a progress report) and rewards should follow.
Be in Control
Bet you’ve fears of the future or negative feelings that always creep in once in a while. The truth is lot of kids feel this way too, whether they’re disabled or not. You’d just have to learn to be in control and make choices in your life. It’s normal to have a range of feelings, including fear, blame, sadness and guilt. The first thing is to know that there’s no right way to feel and to acknowledge your feelings. Avoid comparing yourself with other kids and celebrate each milestone you achieve with your support team. Learn to be independent and take on some responsibilities which would help you in feeling better with yourself. You could learn simple self-care tips like; feeding yourself, getting dressed, tooth brushing, tying your shoe laces and so on. If you ever feel misunderstood or bullied, don’t hesitate to discuss with your parents or your trusted support team members. Just like everyone else, you’ve every right to be treated justly. Never forget that your disabilities and challenges are not YOU. They just happen to be a part of you. It’s very true that your disabilities can seem to make life a struggle for you but being creative can help you to cope and work around them.
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