Raising Children with Disabilities to be Successful:
What resilient kids look like

By Shari Carter and Mohamed El Garhi

It usually starts early in childhood, but problem-solving is a skill that can be modeled and taught throughout a lifetime. You will see kids who are good at problem-solving showing a lot of interest in solving problems rather than running to Mom for help or simply giving up. They don’t always look to others to “fix” everything or every situation for them. You can teach problem–solving skills by first identifying a problem and brainstorming solutions with your children.

Knowing when to ask for help

Successful kids know how to surround themselves with supportive people. They know when to raise their hand and when to ask a family member for help through a difficult time. They have the right combination of having the ability to ask for support as well as being independent when it’s necessary. Teach your child that when trouble arises he/or she can ask for help. Talk to your child about how difficult the situation is that he/she may be experiencing, while showing confidence that your child can find ways to manage the problem efficiently. Talk about safety and when it is necessary for your child to ask for help as well as when he/she can accomplish the task alone. Give several “real life” examples.


When resilient kids are alone, they know how to entertain themselves. They use their hobbies and interests to build their self-esteem and feel pride with their accomplishments. You can reinforce your child’s hobbies by showing encouragement and interest in his/her hobbies. Know that hobbies can provide a needed release for kids when they are having a difficult time in their life.

Self confidence and perseverance

They are easy to spot. These are the kids that always see a win-win solution and believe that somehow it will all work out ok. These kids tend to learn from negative events and don’t continuously repeat mistakes. They are always working and growing towards their goals in life. They have what we call “common sense”. Kids don’t necessarily have to have to be gifted or have a high IQ to be successful. What they do need to know is how to use their strengths to the best of their ability. These sorts of kids are quite good at finding a decent solution to any situation. They also know how to deal with criticism and use what they learn to improve themselves. Assist your child in seeing that a mistake can actually be a lesson if you choose to learn from it

Supportive of others

As early as elementary school, you will find these children working to do tasks to help out those around them to lessen their burdens. These kids are often seen helping members in their family, community, friends and even strangers. They have learned to give as well as receive. Find opportunities to prompt your child to help others. Remember parents are their child’s most important teacher. So if you want your child to be kind and supportive, be sure your child is given the opportunity to see both parents in caring and giving situations.


These kids learn how to take care of themselves physically and eat a decent, well-balanced diet. This behavior is modeled by family members and/or friends and is encouraged at an early age. When a child sees and learns these habits early in life, it can become a part of their lifestyle later in life. Also you’re your child a choice of physical activities to be involved in. Even if your child fights the idea, let him/her know they have to choose some sort of exercise program whether it includes a workout with a physical therapist or swimming with a parent or sibling. Remember children will often choose sitting around with a Playstation, eating junk food if you let them. Part of parenting includes setting limits for your children. It’s not always fun, but it is your job. Sometimes they just need a little push.


Children who have experienced open communication about their disabilities as well as their strengths learn how to speak openly to their parents and are able to more readily socialize with others. These children learn at an early age that it is safe to ask questions such as, “Why is that person staring at me?” and “Why do I look different?” It is important that parents are honest in discussing such questions and do not create a “fairytale” story. Education is the key and providing your children with correct information will build trust with their parents, as well as understanding and acceptance of his/her disability. It also allows children to be more articulate and comfortable when the time arises that they are asked about their disability by peers.
* Shari Carter is an American certified special education teacher, speech-language and behavior specialist/coach, who has worked internationally with over 50 different nationalities of kids who have diverse disabilities. Her strategies focus on teaching kids with diverse disabilities the skills they need to be successful and independent, as well as coaching their families on how to parent and effectively support their children without enabling them. She is currently researching Diversity Awareness and Positive Behavior Support in Africa and coaches clients and their families internationally.
* Mohamed Garhi is an American University in Cairo (AUC) student, majoring in mass communication as well as political science. He has first hand experience with physical impairments and is currently involved in including all diverse strata of society.

This article was published in "Mother and Child Magazine " 2007



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Shari Carter and Mohamed El Garhi