LDI’s President, Veronica Crawford, along with LDI’s Director of Operations, Justin Coller, presented at the Phoenix Autism Speaker Series in January, 2015 on the need for resilient parenting for children with hidden disabilities.

Adversity and ResilienceAlthough this topic had been previously written about, a friendly reminder of its content displays how important the information is for the community.

Many parents struggle to acknowledge that something is wrong, different, or abnormal with their children.  It is often a grieving process.  Defining “normal” as it pertains to an individual is frequently defined by the societies in which we live.  Therefore, it often becomes a reflection of either what we passed on to them genetically or the societies in which we were raised and live in today.  In addition to a complicated neurology, these factors beat parents and their kids down far too much.  

Instead, let’s stop thinking that parents or their kids did or are doing something wrong and review some examples and provide solutions that might lead to their lifelong success!  Below is a list of things parents can do that helps with resiliency and establishes the opportunity for happiness and fulfillment in life.

  1. Ensure that when they are ready to be a part of the team that makes decisions about their education, they are a part of it.  Prepare them and help them ahead of time with talking points in whatever learning manner that is best for them.
  2. Make sure your kids understand their disability and how it pertains to them, their learning, their social skills, and their life.  Integrate their strengths into the discussion.  Use examples of others who have been successful as this will help them to digest this often difficult message.
  3. Ensure diagnostics are current and up to date at least every three years.  Make sure as soon as you suspect something is amiss that you seek diagnostics by a qualified professional, such as a developmental pediatrician, a neuropsychologist, an educational consultant (for a variety of services), a psychiatrist, psychologist, or even a disability advocate.  All can guide you to the right experts.
  4. Be patient with them and don’t force them to have a multitude of friends.  One or two friends are fine, and don’t judge their friends.  If they have some strange behaviors, remember there is a balance that you can help create.  Teach them that they can have both.  Everyone has a hobby.  All you have to do is look at the millions of people who are into sports to see that!
  5. Teach your kids empathy for others and get them involved in a cause.  It doesn’t matter what the organization is as long as they are giving back.  These things not only help them to see the other side of the world but also to build work skills, social skills, organizational skills, etc.…
  6. Don’t allow your kids to be absorbed by the media (no matter what form).  Take them on hikes, biking, or other forms of exercise.  Get them a pet, have them take up a sport, or develop hobbies such as chess.  Find another interest that helps to expand their options and opinions of the world.
  7. Give them chores to do, even if it is something minor.  Kids need structure.  Give them an allowance and teach them the benefit of having that allowance.  Help them to budget their money.  Don’t make it a punishment, but make it a reward toward something they really want.
  8. Expose them to the arts.  Expose them to furthering either their education or introduce them to people who do a job they may want to do one day.  Help them prepare questions to ask that person.  Start this no later than Junior High.
  9. Sit down for dinner with you kids.  Family discussions are important as are table manners.  Ask yourself how else would they get these skills?
  10. Demonstrate hard work as kids learn from actions not words.  Teach them as much as you can about social skills, life skills, and how to manage stress and anxiety.
  11. Most of all, realize it is not your fault.  This is neurobiological and no matter how it happened, it happened.  Grieve as it is okay.  Allow them to grieve.  At the same time, remind them that we all have gifts.  Love them unconditionally and allow them to grow.  Take risks, learn from their mistakes, and try your best to not hover once they leave the nest.  

Individuals with hidden disabilities are no different than anyone else.  They have the same wants, desires, hopes, and dreams.  Yes, they are more vulnerable, but really when it gets down to reality, aren’t we all?