Future Planning: F-Words in Childhood Disability

In the article  “Five F-Words of Childhood Disability” authors Rosenbaum and Gorter explain that children with disabilities are often prevented from experiencing life to the fullest and doing things in their own way. The authors explain that professionals who work with these children are often focused on the “F” word of “Fixing“. They often want to prevent children from doing anything that looks atypical. However, Rosenbaum and Gorter explain that children should be encouraged to have a future and live life to the fullest. Their skills, no matter how they are presented, should be valued.

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They believe that parents and professional can help give the child their right to a future through a the Five F-Words in Childhood Disability:

FUNCTION

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Children with special needs can function even if it looks or sounds a little different. Instead of focusing on what the child can’t do professionals need to look at the whole child and their strengths to help develop their skills that may need to work on. It shouldn’t matter how an activity is done, children should not be prevented from engaging in activities because they do it differently. If they practice, they will develop the skill!

FRIENDSHIP 

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These children are often deprived of the friendship opportunities that other children have. Friendships are an incredibly important to a child’s social and overall development! Children need to have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships. Quality of friendships is much more important than quantity. They need to engage in friendships for the sheer purpose of having fun and later on even for dating.

Fun 

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Children need to have the opportunity to be just children! Children with special needs often have lower rates of social participation. Ask your child what they want to do! What is important to them? What if fun for them? This can be in a formal/informal setting , alone/in a group setting and the list goes on. Find out what they want to do, it doesn’t matter if they are able to do it “typically”, as long as they are enjoying themselves. What is most important is that they are enjoying themselves. Engaging in fun activities will help children develop their confidence, sense of self efficacy and achievement, and empower them to pursue endless possibilities!

Fitness 

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It is incredibly important to encourage health and fitness in children! At this age children typically are expected to be engaging in very intense physical activity however, children with special needs often do not have the opportunity to do so or may engage in less intense activities. They need to be given the opportunity to engage in recreation programs that help enhance their fitness.

Family

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Families are the core of the child’s development and their world. Parents need to be supported as they may be going through a lot of mental, physical and emotional stress. If parents are supported then they begin to feel more satisfied, healthy and better prepared to make informed decisions.

and…drum roll please…

FUTURE

Tim, a man with Down Syndrome, now runs his own restaurant!

Tim, a man with Down Syndrome, now runs his own restaurant!

Something that is often overlooked, is the child’s long term future! Families are often focused on the here and now, wondering what program to put their child in, what school to send them to, which professionals to visit and much more. However, while those areas are incredibly important, the authors explain that we are missing a valuable opportunity if we do not focus on the child’s future. We need to look at the child’s capacities and help plan their future with them. Parents and professionals need to support their children to figure out who they are, what they like and are good at, and what their eventual place in society is.

All children have the capacity to succeed! We just need to help them get there.

       Check out another summary of the article here. Also, read a personal account regarding of the F-Words of Childhood Disability and Dr Rosenbaum discussing the F-Words of Childhood Disability

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