How to help your teenager if they have a disability

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Having a child with a disability can be challenging in a myriad of ways. Having a teenager in general can be a new challenge for many parents and of course when you add in the logistical and emotional aspects of living with a disability, it can get to a next level of tough.

Whatever your situation, your top priority is understandably to help your child as much as possible. That of course means providing emotional and practical support as they grow through their teenage years and beyond. But what exactly can you do to help them through these years and achieve success in adulthood?

Be kind to yourself

If you’ve raised your disabled child through their early years, you hopefully already know that it’s important to give yourself a break every once in a while. This is no different now that your child is a teenager. Whatever their disability, whatever their age, it’s important for you to have a balance too. It’s completely understandable and natural to want to give everything you have to your child, but in order to support them continuously and whole-heartedly, you need to give yourself a bit of TLC too.

Think of it like wearing an oxygen mask on a plane. How can you help others if you can’t breathe yourself?

Plan ahead

As your child grows through their teenage years, they will fast be approaching adulthood. So it is time for them, and you, to plan ahead. What happens next will of course depend on a variety of factors such as the type of disability they have and the severity of their condition. But regardless of these factors, you need to start having conversations about your child’s future.

What will their living situation be? Do they need assisted living? Do they want to go to university or college? If so, you may wish to start researching organisations and facilities to find the best fit. Remember that some places may have waiting lists or limited capacity so it is good to know these things early so that you can plan in advance. You could also be eligible for financial assistance, which you will also need to apply for in advance.

It may seem a little early to be thinking about these things, but it’s good to have the information ahead of time so that you can plan accordingly. Your child, like many children, may not know what kind of career they want at the tender age of sixteen but having a rough idea of what their future may look like will help you to plan ahead as a family and get the support and infrastructure you need.

Know their rights to employment

Disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. Some can severely limit a person’s ability to work whereas others may prohibit them a little but not completely. Every person’s situation is different but it’s important for you and your child to know that there are organisations out there who can help.

There are plenty of organisations who provide disability employment services in Australia and a great deal of government support too. Whether it’s getting financial assistance or knowing what an employer’s obligations are, helping your child to understand exactly what their rights are as well as who can assist them will go a long way in helping them to plan a future for themselves.

Conclusion

When it comes to living with a disability or caring for someone with a disability, there really is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best thing you can do is to plan ahead and keep informed about all of the support there is available to you and your child. Don’t be afraid to discuss things openly with your child so that they can understand and plan their own future. And of course, remember to look after yourself and give yourself plenty of me-time.

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