“I don’t want to go to summer camp this year! I hate summer camp! You can’t make me go!” The frustrated and confused mother can’t understand why her 15-year old daughter is being so difficult. She has gone every other year. This camp has staff that knows her and is trained in working with children with developmental disabilities. The mother stops and asks “Then what do you want to do this summer?” The daughter replies “A camp that does not treat me like a baby!”. At that moment the mother realized her teen had outgrown this summer camp, and that she never gave her daughter the choice on what she wanted to do. The mother chose it for her daughter because of her disability.
This mother’s best intention, as with many other parents, is to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their child. As any child grows older they begin to learn their likes and dislikes, which can change during adolescence. As children become older, they may refuse to attend past activities or have different opinions on things as part of their self development.
Any child requires different factors to grow into healthy adult. The Search Institute identified the following building blocks of healthy development—known as Developmental Assets. These assets help children grow up healthy, caring, and responsible. In their research they discovered:
- The importance for youth to experience self development.
- A youth with developmental disabilities also experiences a journey on self discovery.
- Allowing a youth to choose meaningful life experiences can create the foundation for healthy development.
As a parent you can accomplish this by;
- Setting goals that are realistic and motivating for your child. You can never “over praise” your child. The more a child feels successful, the more likely he or she will continue to pursue other goals.
- Using “active listening” with your child. Ask good questions or observe what their interests are. Paraphrase back what they may have said or label their actions. This will show you are empathetic towards what they are saying or doing.
Kathy Snow, a parent who writes and discusses her own experiences of raising a child diagnosed with a disability, refers to a term “Altered Parenting.” The key advice she shares (which I often share with my clients) is:
“Let’s treat our children like they don’t have disabilities, such as respecting them to be responsible and giving them opportunities to do so, and ensuring they participate in age-appropriate activities.” Snow, K. (2011). Retrieved from www.disabilityisnatural.com.
As adults we need to balance our need to protect our teens with their need to be independent in as much as they can be. In understanding this and allowing some freedom for growth, we decrease rebellious behaviour, whether a teen has a developmental disability or not.
Share your experience:
Parenting a child with special needs is not always easy. We’d love to hear more about your experiences and there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call the HaltonParents line for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.
About this guest blogger:
Natalie Busato is a Behaviour Consultant with Family and Community Behaviour Services who works with families that have children or youth with Autism or Developmental Disabilities.