Monday, July 28, 2014

Re: Teaching Your Child to Show Love and Respect to Individuals with Special Needs

Overall, I think, Teaching Your Child to Show Love and Respect to Individuals with Special Needs was great. I love the encouragement to have a conversation with kids about how everyone is different. Has different talents, different ways of doing things, etc. I loved the emphasis on teaching acceptance of people with disabilities just the way we are. (There is nothing wrong with saying "disabilities." "Special needs" can come off a bit patronizing, though.)

Along those lines, always ask the person with the disability what terminology they are comfortable with. Some of us may say "people with disabilities" others may say "disabled" others are comfortable using the word "handicapped" or "crippled." It varies from person to person. No two of us are alike.

I'd say, keep the explanation simple. If you want to bring God into it and say "God makes everyone," "God loves everyone." "God makes everyone different." I'd leave it at that. A lot of the subsequent commentary is really patronizing.

Also, while the mother might be comfortable answering questions about her child, the child themselves might not be. Always, always presume competence. Don't approach a child unfamiliar to you with an ulterior motive to have someone else's child educate yours. Educate yourself. Have your kids educate themselves. If you want to ask a question about the child's disability? Don't. (Ask if you are familiar with them AND if they have told you they're comfortable answering questions about their disability.)

Other Tips for Kids:

1) Teach them to talk directly to the other child, not the parent or caregiver. If they cannot think of what to say, just encourage them to introduce themselves, and ask the other child their name.

2) Teach them to never touch the other child without permission from that child. (This includes their glasses, wheelchair, breathing tube, etc.)

3) Teach them to respect if and when the other child says no (whether that's to a hug or to having their chair pushed.) Saying no is the other child's right, and it's so important for them to be heard and respected.

4) Teach them to get an adult (or better, the other child's parent or caregiver) if your child sees the other child being mistreated or discriminated against.

5) Regarding the remarks that "that person is in a wheelchair because their legs don't work" and I really want to offer you that a wheelchair or glasses or breathing tube or ANYTHING like that? It's not a hindrance to us. Those thing actually liberate us and help us live the lives we want to live. Frame them as such for your kids.

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