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Maria Gali

Talking To Kids About Disabilities

Try to use clear, respectful language when talking about someone with disabilities. For a younger child, keep explanations simple, such as, "She uses a wheelchair because a part of her body does not work as well as it could".  Just as you guided your very young child when he or she began to befriend others, you can encourage your child to learn about and be a friend to children who have disabilities.

  • Encourage them to find common ground.No two people are alike, but everyone has something in common. Regardless of differences, it's important to encourage children to look for things that they can relate to in others. Finding common ground builds character and strengthens interactions between children.
  • Don’t just discuss weaknesses, point out strengths.Disability means they face challenges, but this does not make them devoid of strengths. Encourage their talents and cheer them on. Treat their strengths the same way you'd treat a non-disabled person's strengths.
  • Assume the best.Presume competence, and always err on the side of assuming that the child means well. Sometimes disabled children are assumed to be angry or disobedient when their disability is impeding their ability to move smoothly or process the demands being placed upon them
  • Teach them to ask questions and avoid assumptions. It's almost always okay to ask about the experience of a disabled peer. The key is to be considerate and respectful of when, where, and how those questions are asked. Everyone wants to be understood. When children learn to see beyond the mystery of a disability, communication and understanding can blossom.
  • Don't fear disability.It may be new to you, but to the person with special needs, it's a fact of life. Disability does not need to be scary
  • Bullying Is Wrong Full Stop! Because children with disabilities may look or act different from their peers, they become easy prey for bullying by other children. When talking to kids about disabilities, you’ll want to address cruelty and why hurting another person’s feelings on purpose is always wrong. If your child hurts another child’s feelings, teach her to apologize. Ask her how she would feel if someone said something or did something like that toher. Let her know that all people have feelings and all people deserve to be treated with kindness and
  • Lead by example. Parents always have the opportunity to teach by example. How do you feel about your child’s enrollment in a class with special needs peers? Do you welcome the thought of smaller class size when some students are away? Do you remember the total head count when planning for class treats? Your actions and words will tell your child how to respond to his classmates. So lead the way!

Maria Gali

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