How to teach children about disabilities
Parenting is an all encompassing job. It never ends no matter how old a child is. It is truly a labor of love. It can also be challenging at times. Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of parenting is explaining things to our young children in a way that they understand. Especially because as the late Art Linkletter said “kids can say the darnest things”. Often in today’s technology and social media driven world, we fail as parents to explain things at a level that our child can understand. For a child to fully understand and empathize new concepts and ideas, things must be explained in terms that they can relate to and fully understand.
Children are curious about the world around them. They are experiencing life for the first time. Every encounter and thing they do is a true discovery and adventure. One of the greatest shocks to many children is that everyone isn’t like them. This is particularly true when they encounter someone with a disability. Their minds run wild with questions. That is why it is imperative that we explain disabilities in a way that a child can understand that will allow them to learn and develop empathy.
In explaining disabilities there are some key points to make:
- It is ok to be curious
- The disability does not define the person.
- No two people are alike.
- People with disabilities can do many things others can’t. Point out strengths.
- People with disabilities are just like everyone else.
- Nobody should ever be bullied because of a disability.
When discussing disabilities it is imperative that we do so in terms that our children can understand. I tackled this issue in terms of super heroes and super powers. What child doesn’t like super heroes and dream of having super powers? None. And by explaining it in this way, I believe we foster a greater understanding with our children that will have a lasting impact.
First, we need to let children know it is ok to be curious about others. There is nothing wrong about being curious and asking questions. And we as parents must take time and show patience in answering their questions.
One of the first things we need to emphasize is that no two people are the same. We are all different. Each of us has special abilities and strengths, as well as insecurities. These are what define us as people. It isn’t our outside appearance but our character and ability that define us. People with disabilities are just like us. The disability doesn’t define the person.
We all have strengths that define us, as well as insecurities. So do people with disabilities. In fact people with disabilities can do many things that we can’t (their super powers). We need to show all of the amazing things that a person with a disability can do and point out that often a person with a disability can do things that we could never do.
Bullying is wrong and anyone who bullies someone because they have a disability or are different is wrong and bad and people who do so are villains. Bullying habits begin at an early age and by teaching our children at the earliest age possible that bullying is wrong can prevent our children from ever becoming bullying. But beyond that we need to teach children that if we see someone being bullied that they need to report it and help the person being bullied.
Talking to children about disabilities is one of the most difficult things outside of discussing death with a child that we will ever do. It is imperative that we do so in simple terms that they can understand and let them ask anything they want to ask. We need to spread that word that everyone is special with their own superpower.
Anya Damiron is the author of the award winning book, SuperNinos that deals with explaining disabilities to children. First released in the Dominican Republic the book has now been released in the United States as SuperKids. Additional information on her and her books may be obtained at www.youaresuper.com