A Story about Boosting Self Esteem in Children with Disabilities

by Theresa

(Visitor's contribution to children self esteem stories):

Most children struggle with issues of self esteem at some point, but it can be a lot worse for children with disabilities. My daughter was diagnosed with absence seizures about a year ago and we just recently found out that she needs therapy because she does not coordinate the right and left sides of her body as she is supposed to. She has been struggling with these disabilities for many years, but we are just now getting clear answers on what is causing her problems.

Over the years she has managed to come into her own as a powerful gymnast with a passion for tumbling, but self esteem has always been a huge struggle for her. I didn't understand why she was so withdrawn from other kids and always seemed to put herself down when she was younger, but today I have a clear understanding of what was making her feel "different" from all the other kids.

Due to her coordination problems, she has difficulty with anything that involves both hands. This means she struggles with very simple tasks like tying her shoes, buttoning her pants, or cutting paper. This becomes obvious in a school setting when all the other kids are cutting out perfect snowmen and she is cutting the snowman's head off because she can't turn the paper with one hand and cut with the other.

Before being diagnosed with the seizures she would often feel embarrassed when the teacher called on her for an answer and for some reason she didn't even know a question was asked. We now know it was because of her seizures which essentially create a black out where she looks present but mentally is not.

Now that we have a definite answer on what is wrong, it is clear why these things are hard for her. Yet, it is incredibly uncomfortable for her to sit in a classroom with kids who don't understand her struggles.

She has always compared herself against these kids who don't share her struggles and her self esteem has suffered because of it.

So, how do parents help boost a child's self esteem when they are dealing with disabilities like these? It is definitely a challenge, but I have been taught some effective strategies from her physical therapist:

1. Ensure that they are involved with things that they can do well. This gives them the experience of success and self satisfaction. This is important for all children's self esteem, but it is crucial for children who experience failure due to their abilities every single day.

2. Therapy and other medical treatments can't just be once a week or once a month. They have to be every single day in your home. My daughter does yoga DVDs on days she isn't doing gymnastics classes and she takes tae kwon do at the recommendation of her therapists. Every single day I am doing things to help her overcome her disabilities as much as possible.

3. Treat them as much like any other kids as possible. Some parents will overly baby a child with struggles. It's natural to want to protect them and shelter them from failure and disappointment, but they need these life experiences to feel good about themselves. I am learning to back off and let her experience things on her own, even if I am sure she will fail or struggle. I let her be just any other kid unless it is going to really hurt her. It's hard, but I am convinced she has a stronger self esteem because of it.

4. Make sure they are introduced and allowed to interact with other children with disabilities. They may not have the same struggles as your child, but they will show your child that other kids have their own struggles as well.

I remember the day my daughter found out her best friend at school is dyslexic. She came home and pronounced that fact with great satisfaction, almost as if she were proud of her friend for having a disability. It was one of the first times she had realized other kids really had struggles like her own. It made her feel better about herself in the classroom because she knew she wasn't the only one with struggles to deal with. She didn't feel "different," at least with this friend.

It is very difficult raising children with disabilities, especially if they look able-bodied and others assume they should be "normal." With a lot of effort, you can help them boost their self esteem and live a happy, healthy life despite their setbacks.


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