By: Dr.Gwen
We recently invited Dr. Deborah Harris to our studios to discuss with us some helpful tips for parents having children with disabilities. You can listen to the full interview at The Dr. Gwen Show. Dr. Harris is an advocate for children with disabilities and their parents. She has consulted with numerous large and organizations and school districts around the country and have trained entire school districts on how to successfully educate children with disabilities. She provided some tips for parents at home to create greater peace of mind, not only for yourself but also for the children in your household.

  1. Accept your children as they are and do not try to make them normal; however do not treat them as handicapped. Work with their disability while respecting their individuality and independence as much as possible.
  2. Advocate for them in all arenas: church, school, home—advocacy should be balanced. Teach them to abide by the guidelines of the homes. They must be TAUGHT what the guidelines are.
  3. Ensure you take care of yourselves as parents or you will not be able to provide support for your children. In doing so, be attentive to the needs of the other members of your family so that they feel that they too are important;

This is a good practice in any household, and particularly so if you have children who demand a lot of your attention and time. To give the most of yourself and each of your children, schedule every part of your day. Build in me-time and also build in time for each of your children to spend time with you. Teach each child to respect the time schedule as outlined. Start with 15 minutes and building from there. The length of time is not as important as the quality of time you spend with them. Spend time in their world doing what they want to do being careful to avoid phone calls and other distractions. This time should be separate from homework time.
In dealing with discipline concerns for your special needs child, and to help maintain your mental strength by avoiding repeat discipline issues, find out what triggers behaviors in your child and address the triggers instead of the behaviors. Simply addressing the behavior will not cause a difference in preventing the repeat problem behavior.
Dr. Harris reports some High C principles to help you address discipline with your child:

  1. Consistency—if chewing gum bothers you today, it should bother you tomorrow. If one day you allow kids to talk back to you, and the next day it is unacceptable, you will confuse your children and they will not learn what the correct behavior is.
  2. Corrective—if a certain discipline technique does not correct the behavior chose another strategy. The purpose of discipline is to correct the behavior
  3. Conclusive—Discipline should end the behavior. When disciplining a child you want to end the problem behaviors not change them. Look to see if the behavior is showing up in another version. The two above step consistently applied should help with this process.
  4. Connected—The discipline should connect to whatever you are ultimately teaching your child.  For example if the child throws something and makes a mess. Have him clean it up, for example. Connect the discipline to a bigger life lesson.
  5. Clear—Guidelines and the consequent discipline should be clear with no uncertainties an no loopholes.
  6. Consequential—It should be clearly explained ahead of time that there are consequences for not following through on expectations. Always teach the child and ensure that she understands what is expected before applying consequences.
  7. Compassionate—Discipline should be applied with no strong arm and with compassion.  For example: Say, “I know it must be hard to be a teenager” while enforcing your consequence, instead of saying “Because you are a teenager I can’t avoid doing this.”
  8. Child-size punishment—Apply discipline according to the age and maturity of the child, and some parents discipline kids with the same consequences no matter how old the child is.
  9. Christ-centered—always gather yourself and keep your composure before you administer consequences. Never discipline in anger; kids are delicate. Discipline requires a balance, never to rough, never too soft.

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