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Raising children with disabilities

Introduction

Being a parent is tough. Being a parent of a child with special needs is especially tough. The spectrum of disability is very diverse. Simply stated, a disability is an impairment. It can be something as slight as vision impairment, or as severe as paralysis. Disabilities can be divided into cognitive, developmental, intellectual, physical, sensory or a combination of any of these. The symptoms and onset vary from individual to individual. Some disabilities like Autism, ADHD and Down’s syndrome commence in childhood and dominate throughout one’s life.

Debunking myths and fallacies

There is a myriad of beliefs and notions revolving around children with special needs, most of them incorrect. They range from statements as juvenile and hurtful as “what a weirdo”, to disturbing and baseless accusations on them being a “punishment” to their parents. These myths circulate because of lack of awareness and refutation. Having a disabled child is not Allah’s ﷻ way of punishing the parents for their sins. As absurd as it sounds, it still remains a deep-rooted conviction in the minds of many people, and it certainly is not a burden upon the parents. Had it been so, Allah ﷻ would not have said in the Qur’an,  

             “Allah does not burden a soul greater than what it can bear.” 

[Quran 2:186]

Disability is not synonymous with abnormality, psychosis, retardation or any other word that alludes to their lack of usefulness in the community. It is simply a difference, albeit a major one, but not one that demands isolation and humiliation. The esteemed companion of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ Abdullah ibn Umm Maktum رضي الله عنه was blind but this never deterred the Prophet from treating him with respect. Allah ﷻ revealed Surah al-A’basa in his honour when the Prophet turned away from him in favour of addressing the nobles of Makkah.

So many people wait outside hospital rooms in the hopes of hearing the congratulatory “It’s a girl!” or “It’s a boy!”, only to be disappointed and crushed with sad news. Children are a blessing from Allah ﷻ and no amount of disability or deformity can alter this fact.

                     “Wealth and children are but adornment of the worldly life.” 

[Quran 18:46]

One only needs to glance at the incessant prayers of a childless couple if they need further proof.

Things you need to know

It is disturbingly easy to get overwhelmed by the challenges that caring for disabled kids brings. They tend to behave in an eccentric manner and while it’s certainly not acceptable, it is to be expected. This is why it is of crucial importance that you know that you are not alone in this. There are millions of parents out there in the same situation; just as lost as you, treading on eggshells around their kids. However, hesitant to ask for help because they know them and their kids will be judged, yet they never think of abandoning their kids. Don’t let their negativity or your fears stand in the way of doing what’s right for you and your child.

Here are a few handy pointers that you’re probably aware of, but slips to the back of your mind when the need arises:

  • Be patient – It goes without saying that patience is the first and foremost requirement when dealing with children, even more so with disabled children. It is easy to get frustrated quickly with a child who doesn’t even know what they want, let alone go about it, or scold one who just can’t seem to settle down and keeps moving about. But, resorting to name-calling or similar verbal abuse will only worsen a situation that could have been dealt with patience first and discussion later. A number of verses of the Qur’an attest to the merits and significance of patience and this beautiful reminder carries an undertone of it all, “Indeed, Allah is with the patient.” [2:153]
  • Don’t compare – Just like no two kids are the same, no two disabilities are the same. Comparing your wheel-chair bound kid to their sibling, or even another physically handicapped child might result in the exact opposite effect you were hoping for, despite your best intentions. It will increase their insecurities and create a feeling of helplessness. They might even resort to blaming themselves, or worse, Allah ﷻ over their impairment, and that is the last thing that you, as a parent, would want; inadvertently letting your child draw the faulty conclusion of a merciless god from the why me’s?
  • Communicate your love – No matter how old children get, they never stop yearning for the love and affection of their parents; they simply stop expressing it verbally after a while. Additionally, children with disabilities find it even harder to communicate their feelings. Let your child know through your words and actions that you love, appreciate and respect them, even if they can’t reciprocate the feelings. Seek their opinion on important matters and value their intakes in your conversation, but don’t force them to participate if they don’t want to. Don’t let their disability create rifts in your relationship or sow doubts in their heart.
  • Avoid physical discipline – Corporal punishments rarely yield positive effects but they can be especially counterproductive if your child has intimacy issues or doesn’t like being touched, as in the case of Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome. Repeated use of excessive force will not only worsen their self-esteem, but will also breed mistrust, which can go about in two ways: utter docility or outright aggression. Both of these do no good for their mental and physical well-being. Conversely, speaking to them after both of you have cooled down will work better for negotiations.
  • Encourage education – Education is doubtlessly one of the most integral components for success.Unless your child’s disability completely hinders their ability to learn and creates substantial distress, there is no reason for you to terminate their education. You can enroll them in an educational institution, online or even home-school them, the possibilities are endless. Disabled children do learn- they just tend to do things in their own way. Remember to motivate them without being overbearing, and appreciate their efforts without being patronizing. If your child studies relentlessly for a pop quiz but still scores below average -then hey, it’s still a win for the both of you!
  • Be Islamic – Religious upbringing tends to take a back seat with disabled children, but this is an incorrect approach. Just because they lack in one department doesn’t mean they are not qualified to understand the religion. You can explain it to them in a manner and pace they understand and are comfortable with, but don’t keep them completely in the dark. The five Pillars of Islam are legally binding on all sane individuals. Our religion also provides alternatives to contemporary treatment that can be used for healing, such as Dua and Ruqya.

Conclusion

There is no quintessential guide that teaches you how to be the perfect parent or how to raise a child with disabilities without a single hitch. There will always be problems, but at the end of the day, if your child sleeps soundly, secure in the knowledge that his parents love him and accept him despite all his flaws -then you can rest assured you’re doing a wonderful job as a parent.

Written by: Mariam Kamran
Edited by: The Editorial Team 
© The Islamic Reflections Blog

References

  • 20 Things Every Parent of Kids with Special Needs Should Hear. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.abilities.com/community/parents-20things.html
  • Al-Qur’an al-Kareem – القرآن الكريم. (2019). Retrieved from https://quran.com/
  • Parish, S., & Cloud, J. (2006). Financial Well-Being of Young Children with Disabilities and Their Families. Social Work, 51(3), 223-232. doi: 10.1093/sw/51.3.223

4 thoughts on “Raising children with disabilities

  1. Alhamdulillah after reading the article my heart is light and clear. I understand the importance of being a parent of an extraordinary child! Jazakallahu khairan. Assalamu alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatahu.

    1. Baaraka Allah feekum.
      May Allah bless every effort you have put into your kids.
      You are strong and may Allah reward you for it.
      waaleikum salaam warahmatu Allah wabarakatuh.

  2. Barakallahu fik.
    Praiseworthy writing.

    1. wa feekum baaraka Allah! 🙂

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