The SALT Foundation

Achieving Independence and Maturity: How to Raise Children with a Disability7 min read

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Do you care for a child with a disability? Then you face a special set of challenges inspiring and empowering children or teenagers to become more independent and reach maturity.

Independence and maturity mean different things, even though they’re often mentioned together. You’ll learn what they mean below.

To succeed at raising an independent adult, you need to go beyond being a parent or carer to being a leader.

Trust, Inspire and Empower Your Child to Achieve Independence

As a leader, you measure your success by developing other leaders. And, even with a disability, your child can become a leader.

Defining Independence with a Disability

For independence, we use the definition from the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which includes three elements:

  • Individual autonomy
  • Opportunity to take part in the decision-making process
  • Opportunity to access the “physical, social, economic and cultural environment.”

Building Independence Through the NDIS

The aim of the NDIS is to build independence in its participants. The NDIS is not welfare.

Two types of funding are specifically directed towards this goal:

  • Core supports
  • Capacity building supports

Read more: How to Find a Disability Support Worker

Read more: Empowering Independence with the NDIS

5 Tips for Developing Independence in Your Child

The foundation of your ability to carry out these tips is your personal strength of character.

If you think of your relationships in terms of bank account, everything you say and do with your child either makes a deposit or a withdrawal. Without having money in the bank, these tips won’t work—you’re overdrawn.

Tip 1: Increase Decision-Making Skills

Here are the five basic steps:

  1. List the choices open to them.
  2. Discuss the benefits and consequences of each choice.
  3. Evaluate those benefits and consequences.
  4. Make a plan for how they will handle things if (and when) they don’t go to plan.
  5. Guide them with feedback on their results.

Tip 2: Build Responsibility

To empower your child to become responsible, you need to trust them to be stewards of the responsibilities you give them.

Stewardship means you give young people a job to do and trust them to see it through.

Read more: How Do I Take Care of Myself?

Tip 3: Show Love and Support

Act in a loving way toward your child, showing them love aligned with their Love Language.

The 5 Love Languages are:

  • Quality time
  • Physical touch
  • Receiving gifts
  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
achieving independence
Photo by cottonbro:

Tip 4: Respect Their Feelings, Opinions, and Choices

How much independence do you truly give your child? Invite them to share their feelings? Do you ask for their opinions? Make their own decisions?

Tip 5: Model How to Resolve Conflicts

We all face conflict many times throughout our lives in almost all our relationships. The most powerful way you can teach your children how to handle conflict is what they see you say and do when you have a conflict with them or any other person they see you with.

Foster Maturity So Children Can Form their Own Identities

 Another key factor in achieving independence is developing maturity.

Defining Maturity

Maturity is about your child being able to set clear boundaries for themselves, have the resourcefulness to solve problems, and be able to handle more responsibility.

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr Stephen R. Covey defines maturity like this: maturity is courage balanced with consideration.

To be courageous in this sense means your child can decide what they want for themselves and articulate that to you and the other caregiving people they have in their life.

Raising a Child with a Disability

The biggest difference in raising small children—and older children—with a disability is that their progress through the stages of development can take longer.

And as they grow older, you may need to consider Supported Independent Living if they have high support needs.

5 Tips for Fostering Maturity

Mature children can become an example to other children. With the freedom to develop new skills and gain experience, they can become confident in their competency, and the ability to carry out the goals, tasks, and activities they’ve set for themselves.

Tip 1: Help Them Work Out Who They Are

Each of us has a unique hierarchy of values. Activities that are of importance to your child may or may not be important to you. Let your child undertake the Values Determination Process to discover what truly matters to them.

We base our identity on these values. They influence the friends we choose, the future we see for ourselves, what we spend our money on, what we’re naturally drawn to be responsible for, how well we do at school, and ultimately what we want to achieve in our life.

Tip 2: Teach Them How to Set and Achieve Goals

The next step in becoming independent is to set and achieve goals.

Tip 3: Demonstrate Strong Character

You make your child feel safe when they know they can trust you and your behaviour. Are you consistent? Do you keep or go back on your word?

Teenagers and adolescents especially evaluate what their parents do, not just what they say and the tone used.

Tip 4: Introduce Them to the Difference Between Primary Greatness and Secondary Greatness

Dipping into The 7 Habits again, Covey teaches a distinction between what he calls Primary Greatness and Secondary Greatness.

Secondary Greatness is what we typically mean when we say “success.” It’s the achievements, our impact on the world, the fast cars, big bank balance, and so on.

Primary Greatness is our strength of character and alignment with principles, natural laws that govern human behaviour.

There’s nothing wrong with pursuing both, but our priority should be to focus on Primary Greatness and be our best self.

And while Secondary Greatness is limited (only a certain number of people can become Prime Minister of the Australian Government, for example), Primary Greatness is open to everyone.

Encourage your child with the message that even with their disability, they can become fully independent through building their character.

Tip 5: Clarify Expectations and Define an Accountability Cadence

As you raise your child, help them avoid mistakes by clarifying expectations: what standards do you want them to hold to as they become more involved in the decision-making process around things that affect them.

Also agree on when or what stage you’ll check in on their results. Will you trust them to go on public transport on their own and when they get home share what they learned? Will they progress to a certain stage and then check in with you? 

achieving independence
Photo by Thirdman:

Conclusion: You Can Lead Children on the NDIS to Independence and Maturity

The bottom line is you can raise a child with a disability to gain their independence and increase their maturity. The key element is your personal character—what your child sees you say and do.

The SALT Foundation is Here to Help

As a non-profit NDIS provider, we have a team of Support Workers ready to meet your needs across Victoria.

We can help in areas including:

And you get your first week of services FREE, so fill out the form below or contact 1300 777 258 NOW!

We're always here if you want to talk 1300 777 258.
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