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integration of children with disabilities

Children with disabilities: how to help them integrate into the community

22 August, 2022
A child with a disability, like a typical child, has strengths and weaknesses. But it is important that parents, teachers and other people who come into contact with them focus on what they can do to help them overcome challenges. Skills are more important than disabilities.

How parents educate and support their atypical children depends on personal beliefs about parenting, the age of the child and the nature of the disability. However, most of the challenges and situations in the childhood stages will apply to children with disabilities.

Shy children are encouraged to be more involved with others, those who are restless are taught to be temperate, those who have artistic talents are encouraged to practise them, whether they have a disability or not. Not all children are the same, but it would be good if everyone had the same opportunities for development.

From family members and teaching staff to strangers they come into contact with, everyone can support the integration of a child with a disability into the community.

Dealing with negative emotions

Parents and teachers can support the integration of children with disabilities into the community by teaching them to express negative emotions in a healthy and prudent way. Often, children with certain problems, either cognitive or motor, build up a lot of frustration. At school they may have difficulty learning and relating to other pupils, at the park they may have problems playing, and at home they may feel unfairly treated when they are required to do routine activities (eating, changing, personal hygiene). Children may feel unhappy when they notice that they are the only ones who have certain problems, while parents, relatives, teachers or other children do not face the same difficulties as they do.

Parents and teachers can talk to them about managing their emotions, expressing them in a way that doesn't hurt others, and ways of coping with negative feelings.

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Identifying motivational factors

Motivation plays an important role in the achievement of daily tasks for any child. For those with disabilities, school hours can often be harder and more challenging than for a typical child. Identifying the 'hook' that motivates them to go to school every day is the first step towards developing healthy educational behaviour. Whether it's a classmate he enjoys spending his breaks with, an activity he enjoys (painting, reading, music, etc.) or a favourite teacher, it is essential that parents constantly remind him of the enjoyable aspects of going to school.

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Making communication effective

Children who have communication problems find it harder to express their needs, likes and dislikes, and if those around them don't understand them, they can behave badly in relationships. Young children may be aggressive when they fail to communicate effectively, or withdraw and refuse all forms of interaction.

Some disabilities mean that the child may express him/herself unclearly or very slowly, but parents and teachers need to find a way to communicate with the child.

Children with disabilities have many different ways of communicating. They may use speech devices, unique facial expressions, sounds or gestures. For example they smile, frown, pout, laugh or cry, turn their head to one side in a gesture that means 'no', use their eyes to point at people or objects. Almost every sound and action a child makes has meaning and, because everyone communicates differently, it is important for parents and teachers to identify how their child expresses themselves and give them the attention they deserve.

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Involvement in tasks that make him responsible and independent

Among the opportunities children should have is the chance to take on more and more tasks to become responsible and independent. There may be many ways in which a child can help themselves or other family members, including doing chores around the house. At school they can also be encouraged to get involved in organising activities, coordinating teams or collecting toys or objects they use.

All tasks, no matter how small, are necessary to make your child feel part of a group and that what they do is important. Of course, activities should be chosen taking into account the child's disabilities and abilities.

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Establishing friendships

Games and friendships can be a real help for children with disabilities to develop social skills, feel good, relax, have fun and feel part of a group.
Both parents and teachers can help children develop the skills needed to bond with friends during play, such as listening, cooperating and sharing toys. This can be done by organising play dates and choosing appropriate toys, setting up play areas and guiding children through difficult situations, but also through healthy communication with other parents and their children.

Parents of typical children often don't know how to behave around children with disabilities and how to react when young children don't get along. That's why discussions in the park or at school meetings can help other parents to understand the needs of children with disabilities and the right behaviour to adopt. They can also talk to young children about what it means to be an atypical child and the need for social inclusion.

Every child is unique and should not be compared. It is not appropriate for parents or teachers to compare their children's behaviour, play, academic achievements, strengths or communication skills. Young children need to have the same opportunities, in one form or another, regardless of their health problems, so that they can integrate easily into the community.
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