That Burns My Biscuits!

Published 10:12 am Tuesday, February 18, 2020

By E.J. Smith

Hello Elizabethton.

I know a young man (39) who sits in a recliner all day, eats junk food and watches his favorite show all day on television. This gentleman is 5 ft. tall and weighs 260 pounds. He depends on others to carry his food to him and anything else he needs. When he is finished using the toilet, he knocks on the wall for someone to come and clean him. He goes places with family but no one else. Wow, you may say! You think that he is a lazy person who eats the wrong things, does not exercise and has no meaningful life. The part about not having a meaningful life is true, but the bad habits could have been avoided if someone had believed in him. This man is perfectly able to do things for himself, but no effort was ever made to teach him anything. Now, his siblings must take turns living with him in the family home to do everything for him, leaving wives and children on their own. This column is about how you can lose your pity, guilt and over-protection of your child with a disability. 

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I preach this one all the time! Expect your child with a disability to do the best he can at everything he attempts. We do this with our other children don’t we? We help them with homework all through high school, we talk about career choices, we discipline them so they will know right from wrong, and we teach them to take care of themselves. Do our children with disabilities deserve the same thing? Yes! They sure do and we may be surprised at the outcome. We all want to protect our children, but we must not be so protective as to hinder their growth and accomplishments in their lives. Sadly, many of us do this with our children born with disabilities. We feel we need to protect them from others who only look at the disability and not who they are, those who do not understand that they have a disability; some disabilities are not so visible, and from those who may ridicule and be mean to them. 

How do we raise our children with disabilities to become self-confident and able to take care of themselves? The best way I know to do this is to treat your child the same way you treat your other children. Encourage and reward that first step, even if it is taken at age 3, it is still a big achievement in any child’s life. 

Sometimes, all a child needs is a little more attention and time to become what he wants to be and to do what he wants to do. It may take a child with a disability longer to learn, but they can learn to do many things. Self-care is a very important set of skills; you don’t want to be doing your child’s bathing, shaving, tooth brushing, and all the other hygiene stuff when he is 50 do you? He can learn it now, in his own time. 

One other thing, please do not expect your other children to take care of Little Johnny when you are dead. This is not fair to either of your children. It is not a sibling’s duty to care for an adult brother or sister their whole lives. Instead, give your child with a disability opportunities to learn to take care of themselves and encourage them and assist them in any way you can to become self-reliant, happy adults. We all know that we are happiest when we are accomplishing goals in our lives!

Helping your child to learn as much as possible is also up to teachers, who must also expect the best from every child, not just the ones without disabilities. If teachers and families can work together, even better! There are many gifted teachers out there who show success with their students with disabilities when others don’t. Look for that teacher and choose her or him for your child who needs more help.

So, expect the same things from your child with a disability to do the best they can with encouragement and love. Teach them everything they can learn, it just takes time. Then, when he or she is 40 years old, they will be able to care for themselves and will not feel as though they are a burden to anyone. As for the siblings who would have had the responsibility of caring for him; they will never resent being forced to be a caregiver because they had no choice. 

For more information on people with disabilities being successful in life, look online at . Also, the Tennessee Microboard Association has success stories as well. Try or Also, us is very informative on the subject. These sites will help parents know there are options other than the tried and not-so-true ones we have had no success with. Knowledge is a wonderful thing and can change lives!

You are in my prayers,