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Senior Contributor

Discussing 'disability' with a child?

Not sure how well this fits here but wanted to share some thoughts


Those who have been following my families story will known that I have a child (14) who has an intellectual disability. While this offers him some unique challenges it is such that most  people who have contact with him would not realise without actually spending time with him.


My wife (aka Darling) and I while accepting his challenges and ensuring he receives the supports he needs don't refer to  his disability as such outside of offical paperwork preferring to focus on his strengths. A big part of this is in not wanting to limit him by his disability or setting him apart as 'different'. We have never actually discussed this with him with reference to a specific  disability. In some respects he is oblivious  but at the same time he does  know life is harder for him. He understands that he is at a special school for better support but we have tried to make that as normal as possible for him so as not to discourage him. 


Anyway after that background, what is concerning me is that over the weekend (and  I suspect prompted by  a school friend ) he asked us directly does he have a disability and what is it?

It kind of troubled me that I did not know how to answer. My immediate reply was that we prefer to see it as he just needs some more help and support to in some areas but we don't like to call it a disability...

Kind of feel as though I should discuss it with him further though,  particually now he has asked, but feeling lost as to where to start.  

Reality is that life will be challenging for him and he will likley always need some form.of support but I dont want that knowledge to be such that it discourages him or diminishes his enthusiasm to try anything 'because he can't do it' 


Also because he is our child it is often hard to recognize some of his challenges for what they are. We do what needs to be done because he is our child and perfect in his own way . This was really highlighted to me in the ndis process with how difficult and confronting some of the questions were.


Appreciate any thoughts. 






Re: Discussing 'disability' with a child?

@Determined  Hi Determined I cant talk right now but briefly I have had this discussion with 2 of my children years ago. I will get back to you a bit later when it is a bit quiet here. Love peax


Re: Discussing 'disability' with a child?

@Determined  Hi Determined 2 of my children have asd, epilepsy and both have a mi, one also has a intellectual disability. I was always very open with them about their 'differences'. It made it easy for them to understand why they were having problems at school and making friends etc. More so though it has given them a security. What I mean about security is for asd children they cannot tell very well when they are being lied to or even if they are in a life threatening situation they just believe what people tell them.


I have tired to install (without getting them paranoid of course) a healthy sense of  scepticism in trying to fit in with the crowds, believing what people tell them etc. I think it has worked quite well. Just yesterday my son2 was going for a walk up the road to the shops when some jerk screamed out profanities at him. He was quite shaken but came straight home checking behind him in case he was being followed. I told him if some one ever threatened him to go to the nearest shop and get them to call the police.


For us it was important for them to know their own limitations plus what they excell at. Hope this helps a bit. peax


Re: Discussing 'disability' with a child?

Hi @greenpea  thankful so much for taking the time to respond. 

That is more or less in line with what we do without actually discussing the disability label with him. Your feed back gives me some more confidence around how to discuss this with him. 

The biggest problem is while chronologicaly he is at an age where he really should know more details but by comprehension age not so much. 





Re: Discussing 'disability' with a child?

@Determined  Hey Determined with our son2 (he is the most 'disabled' out of the two)  we knew it was the right time because he kept saying he was stupid compared to his siblings and other children his age. We would say for example maths (which he has always found difficult) can be difficult for people with or without autism but for him his autism definitely plays a role. I would also bring up brilliant autistic people like Temple Grandin for example and her inventions to show him that people with autism as an example can do all sorts of wonderful things.


It is a toughy but you could find your son knows much more than he is letting on. They are pretty smart these kids Smiley Wink


Re: Discussing 'disability' with a child?


Much smarter than they let on.


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