Select Page

Mental and physical disabilities

Page 4/6: Topic B: Children with disabilities limiting their physical abilities – promoting normal daily relations

Topic B: Children with disabilities limiting their physical abilities – promoting normal daily relations

It is important to avoid secondary disabilities. A secondary disability means that because of a disability, the child may be isolated, or the relations with the child may become reduced. The most common secondary disability comes from immobilizing the child, not having dialogues with it, or by not touching it normally.

An example:
Anna is born blind. As a consequence she is in her bed all day – or in a wheelchair – and never learns how to move around. This means that her brain development is also seriously impaired for life, and that her cognitive and her social development stops. Her muscles become weak.

The staff carries baby Anna on their lap very often, they often rock her in her cradle, and they use very emotional, expressive and simple language to get in contact with her. The caregivers turn off all TVs, music and other electronic media in order to help Anna learn about echoes and sounds that can help her navigate by hearing. When Anna becomes a toddler they find a quiet room and help Anna make sounds to navigate, and they give her a stick to tap for moving around, while they hold her hand until she can move around by herself. They also buy a dog for her, which gives her important interaction and training in how to relate and interact. This prepares her for working with a blind person’s guide dog when she grows older.

Another example:
Maria grew up in a wheelchair and her arms were paralyzed. She was considered a hopeless case. When she was ten years old, a staff member had the idea of fixing a small pin on her forehead with a cloth. This enabled her to touch the letter buttons on a computer board and hear the computer pronounce the letters she touched. In two years she was able to read and write, and her diagnosis as mentally disabled was changed to normal.

Another example:
Martinus is a boy with autism who has many strange behaviours and habits. He is very sensitive to social interaction and often starts screaming if there are too many children in the room. In spite of this the caregivers decide to focus on his fantastic ability for calculations and his ability to learn almost anything by heart. Whenever they need a phone number or if they are counting the daily expenses in the institution, they ask Mathias who always has the answer. At the age of ten he wins a local math competition in school.

One of the most important principles when children have disabilities that limit their ability to move around naturally, or to interact with caregivers:

  • Always ask yourself what you would do with the child if it didn’t have a disability? Normal adult behaviour in interaction will very often make the child learn how to respond in spite of the disability.
  • Find ways to include the child in daily activities and play an active role in the social life of the institution or in the foster family.