This section is from the book "How To Help The Shut-In Child: 313 Hints For Homebound Children", by Margery D. McMullin. Also available from Amazon: How To Help The Shut-In Child: 313 Hints For Homebound Children.
Having a hobby can do more for your child than simply providing him with another interesting activity to occupy his time. It can lead him to think and learn more about the outside world, thus widening his horizons, taking his mind off his handicap, and improving his morale. By becoming an expert, even in a small way, on some subject, he increases his self-confidence. Furthermore, any person-child or adult alike-becomes more interesting to other people. His hobby helps him retain his friends and also attracts new friends with a similar enthusiasm. Thus a hobby can be valuable in building up the personal contact with the outside world that he needs so much.
Even an "active" hobby can usually be adapted to a shut-in's needs. For example, if a boy is engrossed in baseball but cannot participate actively, he can learn the rules of the game so thoroughly that in discussing baseball with his friends he will be letter-perfect-a fireside umpire.
In fact, illness may actually be a help in hobbybuilding. Perhaps your child already has one; then time spent at home affords a wonderful opportunity to expand and develop it. If not, this may be the ideal time to help him start one.
Almost any child's interests can be developed into an absorbing and lasting hobby. But the hobby must come out of his interests. However, some children need suggestions, and all children need the added stimulus of parental encouragement. Remember, too, that your child's hobby may change from time to time; his "permanent" hobby may not be the first one in which he is interested.
A further reason for encouraging your child to develop a hobby is that a serious interest may often be developed into a profitable occupation. This is not easy or simple to do; in earning money the homebound individual certainly has a far greater problem than the person who can leave his home. The well person who works for someone else has the benefit of his employer's experience and guidance and the stimulus of working with other people around him; or if he is self-employed, he has usually had some years of experience working for others before he strikes out on his own. The homebound "businessman" must work out most of his own methods and plans, provide his own guidance, encouragement, persistence, and new ideas- often with little or no outside background or experience.
Nevertheless, despite these special problems, the morale value to a homebound child of earning at least some money is tremendous. You are not being harsh to your child, or mercenary, or planning to "exploit him" when he earns money. On the contrary, you are planning to give him some of the most valuable things in life: increased self-confidence, increased self-respect, the knowledge that he can make a contribution, within his powers, to the working world. Do not let your regret for his handicap force him into damaging and unnecessary dependence on you.
Furthermore, the prospects for gainful employment for a homebound person are not so discouraging as you might think. There are more than 20, 000 job definitions listed in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles published by the United States Employment Service. Even if we estimate that only one-half of 1 per cent of these jobs would be possibilities for a handicapped person, it still means a larger number than most unhandicapped people ever consider in choosing their occupation. So do not bemoan what your child cannot do. Take stock of what he can do. List the occupations that might be possible for him. Investigate the requirements. Most states have rehabilitation programs where you can discuss your problem and have the benefit of expert advice. Concentrate on occupations that fit your child's interests and his physical capabilities; encourage him in hobbies that might lead, directly or indirectly, toward these occupations.
Because this subject is so important, one section of this chapter is called "From Hobby to Career. " Items included are mentioned only to suggest possibilities and stimulate parents' thinking; to discuss any one of these suggestions fully would require a book in itself. But if your child has a permanent handicap, it is never too early to think ahead about this problem of employment. You owe it to your child to do so.
205. If your child has a hobby for which items are collected, let relatives and neighbors know so that they can be on the lookout. Suggest to your child's friends that they organize a "Collection Club for Charlie's Hobby. " Be sure, however, that Charlie trades or collects for some of his friends, too; otherwise, it will be all taking and no giving.
206. Hobby collections need not be expensive and there are many things besides stamps that your child may collect. Bottles, sea shells, swatches of materials, picture postcards, service insignia, match covers, are only a few of the many possibilities.
207. Family and friends can collect rocks for the child so that he can become an amateur mineralogist.
208. Wouldn't it be fun to collect newspapers from other cities? Learn what's news to people in other parts of the country! If you do not know the name of the paper in a particular town, the Chamber of Commerce of that town will tell you. A set of papers from one city in each of the 48 states, perhaps from each state capital, would be a fascinating collection. Assembling it would be educational as well.