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How do I Build a Stronger Connection with my Child with a Disability?

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Social work is often associated with responding to a crisis or providing immediate support during a difficult time. However, Michelle Shinnick, a social worker here at Kites, believes that support can be proactive and does not necessarily have to be a response to a crisis. Michelle takes a holistic approach to her work, providing all-round support to families and their children.

Michelle’s role is varied and every case is unique. She has experience working with families in crisis, providing NDIS support, risk assessments and emotional support. She helps families understand more about conditions that can cause stress and works with each family to find the best path for them, suggesting other supports and services that can help.

“Social work is about building relationships,” says Michelle.

At the heart of social work is building relationships and trust with clients. She helps bring positive change to the families she works with. Her mission is to empower parents and allow them to advocate for their children.

“I like to bring a sense of hope and optimism to families. I’ve worked here for 11 years and I always aim to instill a sense of hope to families – if you don’t have hope, you haven’t got anything,” she adds.

Something Michelle is passionate about is helping parents grow the bond between them and their child. She always reassures parents she works with that every feeling they have is valid and there is no “right way to feel.” Forming an attachment with your child does not always come naturally and when the stress of a new diagnosis or disability is thrown into the mix, it can be more difficult. Michelle outlines the five core conditions for attachment that she focusses on for Kites’ clients.


The 5 Core Conditions for Attachment


Being able to totally accept your child is critical to growing the bond and trust. Trust is the foundation of every relationship. Your child should be able to rely on you and feel secure. Have some parent-child time every day to express your love for them, play with them and do something together. It will nurture your bond.

Persistently patient

Looks like being responsive to your child’s physical and emotional needs without rushing them. It is important to be attentive, loving and see things from the child’s perspective. Forget about strategies and practice patience. The more time and effort you put into your relationship, the stronger your bond will be.

Being present

Means turning up and staying in the moment. Be present in a manner that your child experiences being seen, heard, felt, and accepted. Be present, enjoy and live the moment. Put away your gadgets – put phones on silent and turn off the TV. This little gesture shows that you value them more.


Allow yourself to feel what it is you feel, extend this deep emotional empathy to your child. This can look like holding space and helping your child express their emotions. Be empathetic and compassionate and let them vent out their emotions. Whether it’s a happy or difficult situation, acknowledge your child’s feelings, understand them and reassure them that they can depend on you. Seeing things from your child’s perspective will help you understand the reasons for their behaviour.


Authenticity relates to safety. Be real and vulnerable. If you’re not vulnerable, your child can’t be vulnerable. Treat every interaction as an opportunity to connect with your child. Be a warm and receptive parent, who encourages interaction. This may look like becoming a child when you are playing with your kids. Indulge in activities such as building Lego sets or pretend-play, or pair up for video games or other games.

How to get support

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