Teaching kids about disabilities, and how to treat people with disabilities respectfully, can be a tough issue: since kids are naturally curious and have no filter, they sometimes ask questions that can be hurtful (and embarrassing). Since most kids today have at least one child with a disability in their class at school, a bit of education at home is essential. I like this article at Care.com, which includes this list of basic ideas to share with kids about other children with disabilities:
1) No two people are the same — some differences are just more noticeable.
2) A disability is only one characteristic of a person. People have many facets: likes and dislikes, strengths and challenges.
3)Children with disabilities are like all children in that they want friends, respect and to be included.
4) Children can be born disabled or become disabled from an accident or illness. You can’t “catch” a disability from someone else.
5) Just because someone has a physical disability (when a part or parts of the body do not work well) does not mean they necessarily have a cognitive (or thinking) disability.
6) Children with disabilities can do many of the things your child does, but it might take them longer. They may need assistance or adaptive equipment to help them.
When kids are educated well on the issue, you get lovely stories like this one, shared by April Shaw at The Mighty:
“My son stims… and he stims a lot. Finger-flicking, hand-flapping and squealing. Behavior that makes him appear weird to most people. Kids never initiate play with him, and typically when one has, as soon as they realize he’s different, they walk away. They always walk away.
“Except this one time…
“I was sitting by the pool watching my son splashing and squealing, doing his stimmy thing, happy as a clam. In walks “Jade,” somewhere between 7-8 years old, blond hair, freckles across her nose, all 50 pounds of her, if that. She spots him by himself and proceeds to initiate play. She talks, asks him questions and as usual, he doesn’t respond.
“About this time, I fully expect her to walk away, just like all the others had before her, but she doesn’t.