April 2016 Newsletter

Wouldn't it be wonderful if our children were born with an instruction manual? They are not, and nor are we!

We all constantly work on identifying who we are and we sometimes get to old age before we actually figure this out.  The point is that identity identification begins at birth and it is an evolving process - a process that becomes easier as the child grows.  More likely the identity discovery process becomes intense during the adolescent years as children continue the process of separation from their parents.

What shapes our identity is a host of things and they include, to name a few: self-image, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and passions.  So characteristics like being loving, truthful, honest, peaceful, kind, encouraging, hardworking, tenacious, fair, generous, helpful, grateful, patient, humble, courageous, and compassionate are just some of the things that help a child define themselves and it is our job as parents to help children figure out what all of those things are and what they mean to them. 

Now, if you add a disability to that mix - you can see how a child's self-identity can be slightly more complicated.  Their disability can set them apart from the rest - children don't want to be set-apart - they want to be like everyone else.  However, the disability, and thus being different, can be viewed as a negative but can also be turned into a positive and the child can then learn to embrace their difference and thus their uniqueness. 

I came across such a story recently.  Trace Wilson is a student at George Mason University.  He was born missing a hand.  It took a long time for Trace to come to terms with this loss but he has embraced his uniqueness, made it part of his identity, and is now telling his story.  You can learn more about Trace here

My daughter has also recently decided to use her disability and make it part of her identity.  She started her own YouTube Channel to talk about how Cerebral Palsy has affected her.  In her videos, my daughter talks about how to cope and achieve many things that she likes despite having CP.  You can view her You-posts here.

Parents, teachers, therapists and care-givers play a HUGE role in helping children with CP develop their identity.  Viewing their disability as just one part of their identity helps the child come to terms with their "loss" and helps to shape them into the fine, contributing human beings that they can be.  So, go ahead, point out how truthful, honest, peaceful, kind, encouraging, hardworking, tenacious, fair, generous, helpful, grateful, patient, humble your child is and then remind them that their disability has contributed to all of those traits.