As children with physical challenges age, their differences in abilities can become more apparent. The toddler stage usually finds children exploring their world, but any disability can cause physical challenges.
Just because they have disability, however, does not diminish them in any way. The trouble is that they might resent the fact that they are not able to do the same things as other children their own age. These peers might also view your child differently and either exclude them or even make fun or bully them.
If they have been disabled from birth, they will learn how to adapt and grow as the discover what they are able to do. If they have become disabled, they might feel frustrated that they can’t do the same as they used to and have a hard time accepting their limitations.
At this stage of development, a child has no idea that they are any different from any other child. They will follow their instincts when it comes to playing, talking, and moving. Depending on the disability, it will be a challenge for a child born with one leg or who has lost a leg will have issues with crawling or walking, but they will do their best and we as parents should try to support them.
Parents can aid their crawling with a rolling board to help support them and give balance. Developmental aids are available online for toddlers and other age groups, such as a wheeled walker that the person can use to support the missing leg while they walk with the other.
Other disabilities might not be physical but developmental, with your child learning more slowly or not able to master the same skills as other children, such as children with Down Syndrome.
Some disabilities can also affect learning, such as being blind or deaf, due to them not being able to see colors, for example, or read books like other children or hear music and other sounds. For them, a different learning pathway involving touch and speaking will aid in a blind child’s development. A toddler who can’t hear can use sight and touch to learn new concepts and begin to learn sign language and perhaps even lip reading.
All children need repetition early in life in order to learn. A toddler with a physical challenge will likely test a parent’s patience from time to time, especially when they go through the ‘terrible twos’. Dealing with a 2-year old toddler no matter what their state of ability is always tricky, as they develop their personalities and start to question everything with a ‘why’, including parental authority. “Because I say so,” is never a good answer for a child, so you need to be prepared to be logical rather than emotional, even though it can be very upsetting to deal with a physically or developmentally challenged toddler.
The one other source of pressure is within the parent themselves, if they feel guilty or if they are determined that their child will be ‘normal’ and not fall behind. As we always tell people whnever they face a caregving challenge, it is not the end of the world as you know it if a loved one is injured or becomes ill, but it will be a new kind of normal. Getting the support and help you need to be an effective caregiver no matter what the situation can lead to a lot less stress and burnout.
Go online to websites related to a particular illness or disability. Get support. Discover what works well-parents may have to try various approaches until they find one that their toddler responds to.
Support groups can be in person or online. There you can share frustrations and concerns with people who know what you are going through, and some whose children have moved on in age, so they can give you survival strategies for dealing with toddlers.
A toddler with physical challenges needs love, support, and understanding. So do you as the caregiver for one. Like all small children, they are curious and learn from their parents as well as other children. Depending on your child’s personality as well as disability, you should be able to come up with a range of ways to help them learn and have fun as you provide a safe learning environment using all the resources available to you.