My 13 year old son is disabled. There are so many things he can’t do:
He can’t speak.
He can’t read.
He can’t write.
He can’t play video games.
He can’t even wash or dress himself.
And he still can’t jump.
Having all these difficulties limits him in where he can go and what he can do.
He can’t go out and play with friends or kick a ball in the garden. He can’t join a sports team or ride a bike. He requires adult supervision at all times.
Taking all that (and so much more that I could list too) into account his life experiences could so easily be very limited.
People would understand if I never took him to the library or the swimming pool or the park.
Most people would appreciate if I was anxious taking him to the beach or even on a walk. I used to be exactly that: anxious to take him anywhere.
Then one day I realised something significant:
My anxiety was limiting him even more than his disability!
So I took him swimming even if all he did was sit with his feet dangling in the water.
I took him to the park even if all he did was sit on the younger children’s equipment watching other children play while he flapped and laughed.
I took him to soft play even though I had to carry him around or go in with him to support him. I took him to the library to look and feel books even though he couldn’t read any of them.
Then this last week I took him for his first ever visit to a trampoline park even though he can’t even jump!
I didn’t ask for or expect any discount. I wanted him to be as included as everyone else and get the same treatment even if I had to sit on the floor to put his socks on and guide him carefully by the arm to the trampoline area.
In fact, the only time I even mentioned his challenges was asking if we could skip the safety video as he wouldn’t understand or sit through it and asking if I could remain with him throughout.
Standing on the trampolines wasn’t possible for my son. He couldn’t balance and he was scared.
So he sat down while I sat close to him as he felt and watched the others around him.
He couldn’t run around like them or jump but he sat there as his body bounced as his smile grew and his laughter got louder.
He had an absolutely brilliant time enjoying the activity in his own unique way.
His presence wasn’t stopping anyone else from playing or causing a disruption.
In fact, lots of the other children were curious and thrilled when I said they could jump close by so he could feel their movements. He added to their pleasure just by being there and made others realise that there are more ways to have fun than the traditional way everyone else participated in.
When he’d had enough I helped him back up and we headed home again just like everyone else.
Back home that night he looked through his communication cards and smiled as he showed me one of a trampoline smiling.
In his own way, he told me that he’d had a great time and wanted to go back.
We’ve already been back again and I suspect we might even be one regulars there. Will my child ever be able to actually jump? I doubt it but that doesn’t matter.
What matters is that I don’t limit my child even more than he already is. We might have to adapt and do things differently but that’s ok.
It’s ok to be anxious if your child has extra needs but just don’t limit them more than their disability already does.
Don't let your anxiety hold them back from having fun, however that looks to them.