Understanding the social and emotional needs of a child with disabilities

Disability in simple words refers to any limitations experienced by the Persons with Disabilities in comparison to able persons of similar age, sex and culture. The persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 defines “disability” either as blindness, low vision, leprosy-cured, Hearing impairment, loco-motor disability, mental retardation and mental illness. According to the Act, “person with disability” means a person suffering from not less than forty percent of any disability as certified by a medical authority. World Health Organization (WHO) defines disability as a person-level limitation in physical and psycho-cognitive activities. In the social context Disability can be defined as, disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by a society which takes little or no account of people who have impairment and thus excludes them from mainstream activities.
Children with disabilities certainly have a few other features which are little different from the children with non-disabilities. Disabled children have special need; they need extra care and concern but not over protection and sympathy. They ask for empathy although doing the simple things which the children with non-disabilities can easily do, might be the most challenging tasks for the children with disabilities. Medical care and Rehabilitation are the significant ingredients for a successful development and growth of the disabled children. In our society the disabled person or children are most often perceived as unproductive members of the family as well as for the community. They are more often treated as a burden on the society and that is why the response towards them is deeply disheartening. But the fact is that, disabled children also need that every element of living that an able child requires.


A disabled child also requires emotional and social security and ironically such children are left behind when it comes to socialize them, family due to hesitation, grief, anger and insecurities tend to keep the disabled child behind the walls. Many of the disabled children have been found to be emotionally and socially insecure and it is also a responsibility of the family to understand their emotional and social needs besides looking after their physical needs as well.

  1. Dealing with grief, hesitation and insecurity is must: In a family particularly the parents should get rid of their hesitation, fear and shyness and should try to give suitable exposure of the society, peers group and other members to the disabled child.
  2. Strengthening the image of family : Parents should try to balance their timing of caring and parenting a disabled child. Usually a major portion of the time is consumed only in taking care of the necessary tasks of the disabled child but here parents should understand that it is also essential to spend a quality time with their disabled time to give him/her emotional security and this will also strengthened a sense of a family in the mind of the disabled child.
  3. Taking help of Rehabilitation Professional: Rehabilitation professionals can better advice the family and the parents to provide a holistic and safe atmosphere for the disabled child. They can even guide about the necessary steps and things to be kept in mind while giving a social exposure to the disabled child.
  4. Value the disabled child : it is very essential that the parents, family and siblings give value and respect to the disabled child and do not treat him/her as an unproductive member of the family. Never find the fault in his destiny but try to help, support and motivate the disabled child to grow and become self-sufficient.
  5. Give empathy and not sympathy : a disabled child never wants your sympathy but your empathy. He/she wants you to understand his condition and moreover expects you to help and motivate him. A disabled child also needs a compassionate guidance and little extra attention otherwise your sympathy is just futile for him.
  6. Recreational activities and peer groups : parents and other family members should join some of the NGOs or nearby homes where the disabled children can meet other children of same disabilities and can meet new people. Such homes and NGOs organize short trips and recreational activities for disabled children and also provide other productive activities which are learning and useful.

Thus, the upbringing of a disabled child requires the parents to understand every aspect associated with the same, it is important to realize that the child with disabilities is not supposed to be lying on the bed all the times, and others perceive him/her with sympathy and mercy but that child also deserves to be independent and self-sufficient. A disabled child also deserves to be grown up in a healthy and free atmosphere and rehabilitation is a way to provide him that atmosphere and conditions.


  1. Yesterday, I was listening to the Indian Prime Minister on radio and he gave a suggestion to use ‘divyang’ in place of disabled. I feel that we can eliminate more than half of the psychological negativity with the right use of the word as it affects the mental strength of the respective person. To the point of social and emotional thrust, there is only one way to quench it! Spend time with them and establish fair conversation. Observe their activities and notice their behavior. You are there! 😀


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