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14 Words to Consider When You Befriend My Child With a Disability


Editor's Note

This post was adapted with permission from Kathy Hooven.

One of our Mighty contributors, Kathy Hooven, wrote a great post about words other teenagers should consider when they befriend her son with autism. My children are not on the autism spectrum — one has cerebral palsy and one has Down syndrome — but her post got me thinking about the words I want other kids to consider when they befriend my girls (or really, any kid who has a disability). Not only that, but I thought about the words I have seen in action from their friends.

So for any kid or teen who wants to befriend our kids, these are the words I hope you consider:

1. Time.

It takes time to get to know someone, to connect, to trust. If you give our kids time, you may have a friend for life.

2. Invite.

Invite our kids to join you in the lunchroom, to go out for pizza, watch a movie or to the football game.

3. Accept.

Accept our kids just as they are. The most beautiful friendships happen when we are willing to accept another person for exactly who they are.

4. Consider.

Consider our kids. Include our kids. Think about our kids. Notice when our kids are missing and let them know you were thinking about them. Please make plans with our kids in mind so they can participate in the same activities you do, and when necessary, be creative to provide accommodations so they are not left out. If you need help or suggestions, we are glad to offer insight.

5. Educate.

Educate yourself about people with disabilities. There are great online blogs written by disabled people (the best way to learn about disability is by learning from actually disabled people).

6. Individual. 

Remember every person is an individual. You can’t make assumptions about someone based on their disability.

7. Ask. 

Ask questions if there is something you do not understand.

8. Respect.

You might not always understand our kids and their differences — please still show respect. Chances are our kids may not always get you either, but respect is what makes all the difference.

9. Dignity.

Treat our kids with dignity. No baby talk. Presume competence. Treat people (all people) in age appropriate ways.

10. Space.

Everyone needs space once in a while. Remember needing space does not mean a lack of interest in friendships.

11. Listen.

Please listen to what our kids have to say. Their voice matters, and a friendships thrives when all friends are willing to listen to one another. Even if someone is nonverbal, they still have something to say, and communication is more than words.

12. Care.

Show you care by asking questions or by listening to the everyday happenings. Like a fight with a sibling, an embarrassing “mom moment” or the corny “dad joke.”

13. Equal.

Please remember no person is better than another. We are all equal, and everyone has something to give in a friendship.

14. Kindness.

Just be kind. Period. The end.

Getty image by MarinaMays