Living with a disability is certainly no easy feat. Even the most basic of tasks can hurtle you through a range of emotions, from mild frustration to absolute infuriation.
Fortunately, there plenty of resources and support systems available to give you the help, motivation, and knowledge you need to flourish and live a highly functional, independent and fulfilling life.
Types of Disabilities and their Challenges
Disabilities come in many forms; however, they can generally be classed into two distinct categories: physical disabilities and learning disabilities.
Physical disabilities include:
- Muscular dystrophies
- Brain and spinal injuries
- Cerebral palsy
- Spina bifida
In most cases, these disabilities result in a lack of mobility, coordination, and muscular development. They can make simple, everyday tasks such as getting dressed, tying your shoes, and chewing and swallowing your food very difficult and frustrating to carry out.
With these disabilities, disability-specific therapy should be coupled with some sort of physical therapy (for example, physiotherapy combined with special exercises and routines designed specifically for that disability).
Learning disabilities include:
- Dyslexia (trouble reading)
- Dyscalculia (trouble with math)
- Dysgraphia (trouble writing)
- Dyspraxia (trouble with learning motor skills)
- Auditory and visual processing problems
The above disabilities can all create significant hindrance. In all cases, it is important to remember that children with these disabilities are NOT ‘less smart’ than other students; their brains are simply wired differently, and as such they require different methods of learning to succeed.
Many, many people with learning disabilities have had enormously successful lives. The most important thing is having the right support system – with the right therapy, coaching, and mentoring, a child with a learning disability can go on to learn and achieve things that they never thought were possible!
The Importance of Support
A person with a disability wants nothing more than to be treated as ‘normal’, the same as everyone else.
They want the power to make their own decisions. They want to be able to attempt to overcome challenges without having everything done for them. They want a sense of independence and accomplishment.
As a motivational speaker and disability support specialist (as well as a life-long diagnosis of cerebral palsy), this is one of the most crucial points I try to get across: never treat a person with a disability as someone that is incapable of independent function.
Allowing them even the most basic of choices (what to eat, what to wear) will have an enormously positive psychological impact. Going further, if a child is struggling with a certain task, allow them the opportunity to attempt it by themselves. If they are unable to, provide just enough help to allow them to complete the task, and make it clear that each time they try completing it independently will increase their likelihood of being able to do it on their own indefinitely.
Remember, always ask if they want help before providing it. On a deeper level, this will reinforce the idea that, even if they are helped, it was their decision – they chose to allow you to help them.
Giving a person a sense of control and independence in their life will do more for them than anything else you could do.
A important note for when you are seeking support for loved ones with a disability. Please be diligent in researching and reviewing all support resources and caregivers. Sadly, there have been cases of abuse and neglect toward people with disabilities by the people who were supposed to be caring from them. Whether seeking physical, mental or emotional support, review the person’s or organization’s history and references.