Children Adjusting to Amputation
Children are remarkably resilient and most adjust quickly to prosthetics after amputation, however they do require special support through the rehabilitation process and as they grow.
Similarly, children born without one or more limbs will also require special practical and emotional support from birth through to adulthood. Prosthetics are not usually given to infants, but rather, once little ones are standing, reaching, and mobile, they will be fitted for their first artificial limbs.
Here are some ways parents and family members can support children who are adjusting to amputation or congenital limb deficiencies:
Consider the range of prosthetic limbs available: There are so many amazing advancements in the technology of prosthetics to consider. Child amputees today are able to choose from a variety of recreational limbs and devices that allow them to participate in diverse activities such as swimming, baseball, biking, or playing music. Take the time to explore what is available as a family.
Don’t look at the price tag before you explore the options: We recognize that the cost of prosthetics for children – who grow out of them, sometimes as fast as they outgrow their clothes! This can create a financial heavy burden for many families, but at Teter Orthotics & Prosthetics, we accept a wide variety of health insurance plans and have the flexibility to work out an extended payment plan. There are also several community organizations that will help families facing financial hardship including Variety – the Children’s Charity of the United States – and Michigan service clubs or fraternities such as The Elks, The Lions, or the Knights of Columbus.
Stay focused on ability: As children grow, they need to feel supported as they explore the world around them. Reassure your children that there are ways that many with amputations or congenital limb loss have succeeded in sports, the arts, academics, and all kinds of extracurricular activities. Don’t offer excuses why they can’t try something. Focus on what they can do and encourage them to try.
Let them take risks: All parents worry about bullying and damaging failures that may hurt children’s feelings, but parents of children who are differently-abled often have even more anxiety in this area and want to protect them from negative situations. Prepare your children with answers to questions about their limb loss and prosthetics, encouraging them to be proud of their technological supports and ability. Encourage them when they want to try something new and be ready to coach them to learn from failures – either by trying again or attempting something new and exciting. Use unpleasant encounters as opportunities to teach your children how to respond in healthy ways. Children who know they are loved and supported will embrace opportunities to test their wings – and just might amaze you when they do!
Encourage, but don’t become the enforcer: Be prepared for your children and teenagers to balk at wearing their prosthetic limbs. It’s normal for little children to want to take a rest from wearing their prosthetic devices, much the same way hard of hearing children may want to go a few hours without their hearing aids. Pre-teens and teenagers may become self-conscious and refuse to wear their prosthetic limbs if they feel conspicuous among their peers. Demanding that they wear prosthetics may cause them to rebel.
The sky is the limit – even for children with artificial limbs: Challenge them to take some risks and not worry about what others think, watch news segments or television shows about differently-abled young people (think good role models like the film Dolphin Tale based on real events), and find support groups so that peers and older young people who understand them become friends and mentors. Many teens today embrace the new prosthetic technology that is available, which is seen as very cool and high tech to their classmates.
Since 1955, the prosthetists at Teter Orthotics & Prosthetics have offered expert prosthetic services to pediatric patients in Traverse City and more than 20 other locations in Michigan including Petoskey and Grand Rapids.