How to Talk to Your Kids About Disability

After my diagnosis, family and friends often asked me when I will have a conversation with my children about my disability. I realized there was no perfect timing. I tried to figure out how to make such a complex subject easy for a kid to understand.  At the onset of my disability, I decided to make sure my kids saw a mother with a positive outlook on life. Although I use my Edge® 3 Power Wheelchair with iLevel® for every part of my life, I always allowed my children to see my gratefulness and my humbleness as a working mom and wife in a wheelchair.

If I am angry, sad, or more than a little aggravated, I quickly reset. Sometimes, I am forgetful and after some time, lethargy and tiredness set in. In dealing daily with an autoimmune disease, intense negative emotion or a prolonged bad mood could easily trigger a flareup. This could last anywhere from days to weeks. By resetting, I remember that I am here for a purpose.

Here are a few tips to help your kids empathize and understand how everyone in this world is different but special.

Let Them Know You Are Here for Them

I had to explain to my children that life happens and sometimes things are out of control. My son and daughter remembered a mother that was active in Girl Scouts, but they were too scared to ask me what the future holds. I reminded them that I am still here to support them and that it would just look a little different.

Avoid a Long Conversation

I didn’t sit down and have a long conversation about disabilities, modern medicine and what my recovery or lack of recovery would look like. Instead, we slow walked it.

Let Them Know They Can Talk to You

The best advice I can give to a newly disabled parent is to let your kids know you are approachable and they can talk to you anytime. Sometimes, a conversation happens right out of the blue while we are Walmart or even at the park. I simply smile and advised them to let me know what is on their mind.

Disability Can Change How They See the World

Children are like sponges. They are waiting to absorb all we must share. As a result of me being disabled, my daughter now wants to be a nurse. Just think: if I wasn’t disabled, would she have the same heart to understand the struggles of so many men, women, and other children?  

My motto now is to live, love and laugh.  This autoimmune disease doesn’t define how I live; I do! I work hard, love hard, and laugh hard. I explained to so many others that being disabled has taught me how fragile life is and how having my chair is truly an extension of my body. I often laugh that I forget I am disabled when I am in my power wheelchair because my independence is always at its peak. Life at iLevel is great but life about ground level is spectacular!

About Merlisha Henderson: Merlisha uses an Edge 3 Power Wheelchair for mobility and lives in Arizona with her family. As a wife, mother and disability advocate in her community, she stays active and independent, working toward bringing equality and access to all. Click here to learn more about Merlisha.

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