It is important for non-special needs children to understand the emotions of other children with special needs. Raising your kids in a disability-positive environment may be challenging, but it will help your kids become more aware, compassionate, and helpful adults.
Teaching your child about peers with special needs
A disability is a condition of having a physical or mental impairment. To a non-special needs child, however, this may need to be explained differently and often, since disabilities may not always look the same. Although some disabilities are obvious, such as a child in a wheelchair or a child with vision impairments using a cane, other special needs are “hidden,” such as learning disabilities or autism.
Moreover, many schools have Individualized Education Programs (IEP) available for students that can increase special needs awareness among students.
Teaching your child about their disabled peers
Start by teaching your children about the different disabilities their peers may have. You can also discuss ways to communicate appropriately with people with disabilities.
Let your children be curious. Provide a safe place to ask questions and allow open conversations. Never be angry with your child for being curious or asking questions. Make sure they get the right information and that they do not feel embarrassed about asking questions.
Children may be nervous around a special needs person for the first time. Tell your child there is no reason to be nervous. Encourage your child to befriend a special needs child just as you would a child without disabilities. Teach your children to always find common ground with other children, such as shared likes, favorite things, and other commonalities.
Remind your child that children with disabilities want the same things they do: to feel included, valued and respected. Encourage your child to smile and say hello, and invite the child to a birthday party or playdate. Ask the other parent how you can facilitate a successful play date.
Make an extra effort like learn simple sign language, for example, to communicate better with a child with hearing impairments. Remind your child that being different is not a matter of being better or worse.
Are your children seeing bullying of any special needs children? Encourage your child to tell a teacher about it. Many parents mean well when they tell their kids to help someone in need, but they should ask before helping a special needs child who may be practicing to do things on their own.
Other things you can do
Speak about differences and special needs topics in your dinner conversation. Always use clear, simple, respectful language when talking about someone with disabilities. Kids are sponges, so be careful how you react to people with disabilities, and respond positively and calmly rather than afraid or awkward. Your kids will do the same as you do.
Read books about disabilities at your local library. This may help answer other questions you or your child have about disabilities. You can read your child a book about disabilities as well as adult literature to educate yourself. Whenever possible, ask people in your life who have disabilities for input or tips and learn from everyone.
You can also support a charity. Run a local 5k race for a cause. Shop on AmazonSmile where your purchase will donate to a special needs charity.
Disability awareness activities and opportunities
March and April are Disabilities Awareness Month and Autism Awareness Month. This is an excellent opportunity for starting conversations and sharing with your communities how great our kids are, how we should embrace our differences.
It is also an opportunity to make sure everyone is using the proper language when speaking about the disabled. A great way of doing this is to encourage the use of “People-First Language.” This approach focuses on individuals as people rather than on their disability. For example, saying, “She uses a wheelchair,” is much better than saying, “She is wheelchair-bound,” or “She can’t walk.” The first statement describes a person, while the second and third statements inappropriately define a person by their disability.
For more information
Integrity Inc. supports positive interaction and communication between typically developing and developmentally delayed children. We can help them develop essential communication and social skills through positive play and engagement to enjoy positive interactions with others.
Contact us today at (501) 406-0442 to learn more about our programs!