You can help your child with disabilities to communicate and move if you encourage them to take part in daily activities. Dressing and bathing can be opportunities to encourage your child’s development. Children learn a lot in the first three years – so it’s a good idea to start as early as possible.
Understanding Children With Disabilities
Watch for facial expressions
Children often use unique facial expressions, sounds and body language to communicate. For example:
- Smiling, frowning or pouting
- Babbling, laughing and crying
- Turning their head away to mean ‘no’
- Using their eyes to point to people or objects.
Listen to your child’s messages
It is important to remember that:
- Nearly every sound and action your child makes is meaningful
- All children communicate differently.
Respond to your child
- It takes patience to learn to interpret your child’s messages. It will help if you:
- Act confidently when you know what they want
- Respond to all of your child’s sounds and actions
- Place yourself face-to-face and level with your child
- Imitate any sounds your child makes
- Copy any words they say
- Keep your sentences short and simple
- Make communication fun. Use bright colours and noisy toys to attract your child’s attention.
Talk to your child’s therapist about the most suitable physical positions and activities for your child.
Hold and carry your child – but let them move
Try to hold your child in a way that will let them develop strength, balance and let them look around. You can:
- Hold the child’s body against you but leave their arms and legs free
- Make a ‘chair’ out of your arms for your child to sit in.
How to make dressing time easier
Positions that may make getting your child dressed easier include:
- Lying your child on their stomach, side or back
- Sitting them on a chair or on your lap
- Standing them between your legs.
Nappy changing may be difficult if your child’s legs are stiff. To help you can:
- Bend their knees to separate their legs
- Place a small pillow under their head.
Use different sitting and lying positions to build strength
Sitting and lying in different positions helps develop strength, for example:
- Lying on their side lets a child use their hands and feet
- Lying on their stomach strengthens back, neck and arm muscles
- Sitting on the floor with their legs straight stretches leg muscles
- Sitting on a chair develops upper body strength – make sure their feet are flat on the floor or footrest.
Encourage standing and movement
Regular standing and movement are needed for muscle strength and healthy bones and joints. You can help your child by:
- Using a standing frame if your child is unable to stand independently
- Placing a favourite toy just out of reach to encourage them to roll, crawl or walk.
Things to Remember With Your Disabled Child
- Learning starts at birth but children learn the most in early childhood.
- A child with a disability may take longer to tell you what they want.
- If you talk about daily activities like shopping it helps your child’s language to grow.
- Your child should sit as upright as possible at mealtimes.
- Your child’s therapist can help you choose the most suitable positions and activities for your child.