One of the common beliefs about people with disabilities is that we are vulnerable and need protection. This is partly true. We are more vulnerable in certain situations. However, protecting someone too much can further disable them.
There are a number of ways that a person can be overprotected. They may not be allowed to do things that other people their age are allowed to do, such as move out on their own, go out with their friends or even go on certain websites. People can also be overprotected emotionally. I feel like I fell into this category when I was growing up.
This is done out of love. Parents don't want their kids to get hurt, especially when they think their kids could get hurt more easily because of their challenges. They may believe that their kids already have a lot to deal with in their lives and so may not tell them about family issues that their other children know about.
The problem is that, disability or not, we all have to deal with these issues one day. So it is just a matter of how prepared we are. People who have been overprotected will be more afraid and, when the experience comes, they will have fewer tools and less confidence to deal with it. Also, and I speak from personal experience here, being over protected can give you an overly optimistic view of the world and it can be painful when you realize this isn't the case.
The best thing to do is encourage all kids to take risks and help them to deal with whatever comes up in their lives. This may have to be done differently with different children, but it will help them to be prepared to successfully deal with challenges in their lives.
Sarah Evans has been a member of AbilityOnline.org. for over 20 years. She currently serves as a mentor at AbilityOnline and is an active mental health advocate for people with disabilities.