7 Ways to Help Children of All Ages Become More Independent

Blog: 7 Ways to Help Children

Parenting: It doesn’t truly end when your child turns 18. If you’re a parent, chances are you spend a tremendous amount of time and energy worrying about your kids. If you’re a parent of a child with disabilities, your worries may be even more pervasive.

Regardless of disability, parents know that it’s their job to prepare their children to become as independent as possible. Today’s post includes some suggestions on how to encourage independence throughout your child’s life.

Provide choices

Younger children or those with intellectual disabilities may not have the judgment to make sound choices, but providing several good options about what to eat, what to wear, what to play with, etc. will give them practice making decisions and asserting themselves.

Be patient

Teaching children to complete ADL (activities of daily life) tasks on their own can take time and repetition. For parents who feel rushed and overwhelmed, it can be easier to do it yourself. Though it is tempting to do so, performing tasks that your child can learn to do for themselves eliminates important opportunities to encourage independence.

Find ways for them to help 

Whether it’s helping with meal prep on their wheelchair tray, dusting furniture, removing lint from the dryer, or bringing in the mail, most people with disabilities can perform certain chores. Doing chores successfully and being praised accordingly will go a long way toward increasing your child’s sense of competence and self-esteem and increasing their skill sets.

Encourage them to be their own advocate

When your child has an issue at school or work, it can be difficult to sit back and let them solve it on their own. While there are times when a parent must advocate for their child, why not let them try to manage the issue independently before rushing in to save the day? Allowing your child to ask for help or manage a problem independently will prepare them to solve problems when you’re not there to step in.

Let your child speak for him- or herself

Whether your child is verbal or uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device, give your child a chance to speak for themselves before you act as their spokesperson. Your child will benefit from the opportunity to express themselves.

Stay up on the latest technologies

Assistive technology enables your child to perform many tasks on their own. For example, communicators make it possible for non-verbal children and adults to express themselves, while switches and mounting devices such as the many sold by Enabling Devices, allow individuals with mobility challenges, blindness, or low vision to activate electronic products independently.

Treat adult children like adults

As we mentioned above, parenting lasts a lifetime. Sometimes it’s hard to separate from our adult children and to recognize that they have likes, dislikes, feelings, and opinions that don’t necessarily jive with our own. When adult children are disabled, it’s natural to be protective. Even when we have the best intentions, being overprotective can infantilize adult children with disabilities. Infantilizing behavior can make adult children feel incompetent and insecure and may discourage them from seeking greater independence.