what I wish the world knew about supporting my disabled son


michelle cruzWritten by Michelle Cruz

what I wish the world knew about supporting my disabled son

Recently, there has been a topic of discussion around accommodations and how parents apply the accommodation to their disabled children. 

Many parents of disabled children (myself included) see accommodations as necessary and meaningful to their children’s lives. It goes without saying that if they need it, we will support them and provide the help they need. From walking and speech aids to medications and therapies, we as parents will go to great lengths to provide our children with the advancement or accommodations they require in their lives.

But why does this shift when we speak about mental health and our children? Suddenly, it becomes, “Your child is manipulating your whole house.” “Your kid is running the show.” “How come they keep crying?” “Why aren’t you punishing them?”

Adjusting plans if needed

Statements like these have been said to myself and many other parents as we navigate working with our children who have a mental health crisis or more. The accommodation of gentle parenting comes in full swing. We give them the space they need to process. We allow crying and emotional expression. We ask questions and wait to hear their full voice as they respond. Give our children the time they need to return to a neutral body without time constraints. Adjusting plans if they need to do something else for their emotions or sensory needs. 

If we do any of the above for an adult, why can’t the same be done for a child? A child who, due to age or disability, is unable to express their emotions, needs, or problems comfortably. We give adults the chance to relax and reflect, but not little bodies with growing minds. Add in the factor of neurodivergence, autism, sensory processing disorder, complex anxiety, or depression. All of which an adult would be giving so much care and support. 

Accommodation and siblings

Another factor brought up during this volatile discussion of accommodation is siblings. The constant sensation is that due to having a sibling with a disability, there is no space for accommodation, which puts the siblings at a disadvantage. This could not be further from the truth. Guiding the siblings to compassion, understanding, and knowledge that not everyone is like themselves. They learn skills such as flexibility, patience, and even how to support someone in need. I can say with confidence that they are fully functioning, by health definitions, adults that don’t know the things in the last two sentences.

I look at the experiences like TikToker @dub_frost has had in which her two youngest children had terminal illnesses. She has always spent time with her oldest and made sure she got time and attention while caring for her two youngest in some serious death-dealing with health problems. (Sadly, her son passed away recently, and her whole family is grieving the loss of Harrison). 

Considerations matter

As a parent that has left whole carts of groceries behind in a store while babywearing both twins to go care for my Autistic child, being asked “Is he OK?” Are you in danger? ” Not one person ever considered what my child was dealing with or his siblings. There was no consideration from bystanders about how he had been prescribed a necessary accommodation for a sensory-friendly shopping hour, a safe cart seat for larger children that still need restraints, or more. No, they were more embarrassed to witness my child scream in a public meltdown. 

We are seeing some places putting the carts I mentioned in places like Target for people who need assistance while shopping with caregivers. More parks are providing side-by-side swings for wheelchair-bound children, slides for people who cannot climb stairs, open-floor plan play zones, and other amenities.

Accommodations and support

The accommodation provides support for anyone in need, be it mental health, or physical health. The next time you see a parent struggling, instead of doing the task for them, kindly introduce yourself and then ask, “How can I assist you?” If they respond, “I’m good,” please know they have a lot going on and possibly your kind act of waiting for consent is the accommodation they need.

 What accommodations do you find helpful? Is there anything you wish people knew about supporting you or your family? Feel free to share in the comments.

what I wish the world knew about supporting my disabled son





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