By Mackenzie Johnson
The leaves have changed color, and the trees are beginning to look bare. The temperature is dropping and the frost is more prevalent in the morning. This can only mean one thing; we are in route to welcome another winter season.
We all know the story of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer; a reindeer that started off ashamed of his individual gift was turned into a legend when he started to embrace his different abilities. In many ways there are little heroes who are differently enabled hiding from their peers because of the gifts they were born with.
Children with intellectual and physical disabilities are about to embark on another winter season filled with strange family members and prolonged indoor activities. This article is meant to embrace children with intellectual and physical disabilities, and offer some prospective on the additional stress that these individuals and families endure during the winter months.
Being “different” as a child is never easy, but often schools provide a social circle for every type of child. Social interaction is difficult in general, but children with intellectual and physical disabilities are able to create networks at school, creating a welcoming atmosphere with predictable school days throughout the week. Everyone they interact with creates a social routine, from teachers to classroom peers.
When the winter months bring snowstorms, children with physical disabilities are sometimes forced to stay indoors for prolonged periods of time due to mechanical malfunctions with wheelchairs, or an inability to be safely transported to and from school. Additionally, children with intellectual disabilities are deprived from routine when school is cancelled due to snow. Breaking routine is hard enough on children without disabilities, and if the inability to go outside and play is factored in, snow days can be a stressful time for parents. As cabin fever sets in, these children need to be socially and educationally stimulated, which can be a challenge.
This winter, factor in the challenges that others are facing with the winter months. Be prepared by planning ahead, and talk to your child about the possibility of snow days before their normal routine is canceled. It’s also beneficial to create your own routine so that your child will have a set plan of activities, leaving less room for concern. Another tip is to start a traditional activity with your child on snow days, this way snow days start becoming something exciting instead of something scary.
If you have a child with an intellectual or physical disability, start your preparation now! Down time is not ideal for any child, so be sure to have activities planned to keep your child busy.
Overall, enjoy this winter season with your child, despite any different abilities. Keep your child busy, begin snow day traditions, and stick to a snow day routine! Remember that not even Rudolph had a distinct talent until Santa needed a differently enabled reindeer to lead his sleigh on that foggy Christmas night!