Dear Parents, Please Talk to Your Kids About Their Classmates With Disabilities
School is starting up again and the kids (and let’s be real — the moms) are excited for back to school! The kids are excited to meet their new teachers, see their new classrooms, get out all their new school supplies and see their friends again. Children will be growing and learning so much during the school year from their teachers and parents’ help at home. But as a mom of a child with a disability, I ask that you please teach your children about a few things outside of their school subjects as well.
If you hear your child talking about the “weird” kid, the quiet kid, the kid who walks different, talks different, looks different, is in a wheelchair, or is different from the rest in any way, please take time to explain to them that those differences are OK and necessary. Tell them we need many different types of people for our world to work. No two people are exactly the same, and the world would be pretty boring if they were.
Please explain to your kids that those others may call “different” just want friends like any child would. Please explain they have feelings like any other child. Please encourage your children to be kind and get to know children like mine. Tell your children it’s OK to ask you questions and give them age appropriate answers. If your children understand more about the children who are not quite like them, they are more likely to be compassionate and friendly.
As the mom of a child with a disability, I have a huge fear that my son will be bullied and not be able to make friends because he just doesn’t know how. When he was younger, his developmental delays were not quite as noticeable. Now that he’s getting older, other children are beginning to notice and they are asking questions. I encourage those questions and love to answer them!
If they know why my son jumps, they may try jumping with him. If they know why my son laughs at things no one else seems to find quite as funny, they may smile at his delight. If they understand why my son gets overwhelmed, they may be there for him when he needs it most. If they understand that my son wants to be your friend but isn’t quite sure how, they may help teach him. If they understand that my son loves people but cannot always express it, they may just love him back.
Please talk to your children about children like mine, because it means the world to moms like me.
Getty image by Bezvershenko.