Disabilities

My child has disabilities. How can I handle or deal with children who tease him?

Our Daddy MD Guide’s reply: I am a pediatric orthopedic surgeon who treats congenital malformations. Parents of children with disabilities or malformations ask me how to deal with the other children who will tease or avoid them because they are different. My advice is that parents cannot shelter children from these episodes, so they should understand the child’s perspective as much as possible.

Prior to the age of six years, most children are curious about differences but attach no significance to these differences. A four-year-old child will walk up to a person in a wheelchair and ask why the person is sitting down in a chair with wheels. There is no malice or judgment, only curiosity. Small children will play with anyone regardless of color, ability, or appearance. A child with a difference like a birthmark doesn’t need much protection until the age of six years except to explain that people are interested in them.

After the age of six, all children are teased whether it is hair color, shoe choices, or lunch boxes. Children with differences learn quickly who is a true friend and who is simply mean or hurtful. These children do seem to mature faster in their understanding of what’s superficial and what’s meaningful in relationships. It’s a harsh lesson, but there’s no need to protect children from those types of lessons. As long as children know that you love them regardless of their friends, they will grow up to be wise adults.

Charles T. Price, MD, a dad of two grown children and the grandfather of seven-, six-, and three-year-old grandchildren, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine, the director of International Hip Dysplasia Institute, the past president of the Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America, and a co-founder of the Institute for Better Bone Health.

Q&A by Wyatt Myers

 ***

Can my child live a normal life with a disability?

Since I do pediatric critical (intensive) care, the questions I get tend to be pretty serious. For a seriously injured child, I often get asked what the future will bring and how the child will relate to and function with their disability. Young children are remarkable in their resiliency. They usually don’t feel sorry for themselves (unless we teach them to). Whatever life gives them, they cope with it. Much of the anguish and despair adults feel in such situations are feelings that the adult projects upon the child.

Christopher Johnson, MD, a father of two children, the president of Pediatric Intensive Care Associates, P.C., the medical director of the PICU for CentraCare Health Systems, and the author of How Your Child Heals: An Inside Look at Common Childhood Ailments, How To Talk To Your Child’s Doctor, and Your Critically Ill Child

Q&A by Wyatt Myers

 

 ***