Empowering Kids with Disabilities, Part 1: Meet Basic Survival Needs

by Feb 27, 2023How-Tos, Special Needs Parenting0 comments

Jolene explains how William Glasser's choice theory taught her about enabling kids with disabilities to meet survival needs.

Empowering kids with disabilities is important, right? I mean, parenting is about empowering and equipping our kids to self-advocate to the best of their abilities, right?

And yet.

If my experience of raising a child with special needs is anything like yours, empowering my kid with disabilities rarely reached the top of my parenting priority list. For a long time, we were too busy keeping our son alive. Once he was healthy, we were too busy recovering from the trauma of keeping him alive.

You know what I mean.

Many years later, during my career as an elementary teacher, I took a professional development course based on William Glasser’s Choice Theory. The name of the course is long forgotten, but it revolutionized my teaching. It changed my relationships with students because it showed me how to empower them, whether or not they had disabilities, by addressing their basic human needs every single day.

It was powerful stuff.

Even after I left teaching, Glasser’s principles found their way into my books. They now inform my work with adult learners and parents raising kids with disabilities. They shape how I interact with my adult children and my four amazing grandchildren. The principles work because they focus on the needs common to humans of all ages. So what are those needs?

I’m so glad you asked!

As identified by Glasser, the five basic human needs, all powerful motivators in children and adults, are survival, love and belonging, power, fun, and freedom.

To read the rest of Empowering kids with disabilities, visit Key Ministry’s blog for special needs parents.

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Image by Sally Wynn from Pixabay 

By Jolene

Jolene Philo is the author of several books for the caregiving community. She speaks at parenting and special needs conferences around the country. Sharing Love Abundantly With Special Needs Families: The 5 Love Languages® for Parents Raising Children with Disabilities, which she co-authored with Dr. Gary Chapman, was released in August of 2019 and is available at local bookstores, their bookstore website, and Amazon. See Jane Sing!, the second book in the West River cozy mystery series, which features characters affected by disability, was released in November of 2022.


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Meet Jolene

Jolene Philo is a published author, speaker, wife, and mother of a son with special needs.



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