Teaching your Children Disability Awareness
In 1990, “The Americans with Disabilities” Act was passed for Americans with disabilities. A new world emerged for these disabled people with ramps, porch evaporators, Braille, handicapped parking areas, and the world was expected to be courteous to people in wheelchairs. Grocery stores began using electric scooters with baskets so people could shop more independently and many changes were made for people that needed assisted living arrangements. The states began to implement programs through human services where people with disabilities can ask and find out answers to questions about social security and having a caretaker to assist them. Children started to be mainstreamed into regular classes with children that don’t have disabilities and that seemed to help children realize that all children were not the same.
In the earlier years, children with disabilities had classes in different rooms apart from children without disabilities. These children were called “Special C’s”. This was especially difficult on some high schoolers that looked normal and just had cognitive disabilities. Not all children had deformities back in the earlier years before the ADA was passed. Signs were installed in many areas warning people that a disabled child lived in the vicinity so cars would slow down and acknowledge the fact that a disabled child was possibly outside playing.
Your children are getting to an age where they notice that some children are just different than the average children they see. How are you as a parent going to handle those questions? How are you going to teach your children about disability awareness?
Remember the term disability covers a variety of ranges. Some disabilities are obvious and others may be harder to see – like autism for example. There is a great chance that in a stage of your child’s life he or she will have a schoolmate with some sort of disability. You should teach your child to show compassion and empathy to their friends and that no child is different from another. They might look different and learn differently but there is no judgment to pass here. Being friends with those kids can teach them a lot of things. Here are some things you can teach them.
- There are no 2 people that are created the same but people notice some of the differences more easily than others.
- The disability is only one trait that person has. There is a lot more to a person than their disability. Try to make them see their interests and other traits.
- They are the same as other children: they have hobbies, they want to hang out, make friends and want to be respected by others.
- Sometimes children are born disabled but other times accidents cause disabilities. Teach them that it is not a virus, and they can’t transfer the disability to other children.
- You can also explain to your child that some disabilities are physical and not cognitive.
- They can do a lot of the things that your child can but they may need some help and assistance.
Make sure you are clear, concise and to the point when you are talking about a child with a disability. Keep your explanations simple if you are talking to a younger child. Make sure you reinforce the fact that insults are not acceptable even if your child meant this as a tease. It is not okay to hurt other people’s feelings.
Special needs in the school environment
Children with special needs often attend public schools, so it is of great importance that every parent educates their children about different kinds of disabilities. Some of them may need more time to learn, some may need physical assistance and most important of all – all of them want friends. Teach them the following things so they do not ask questions during the class:
- Special teachers might attend the class so they can work separately with them
- At times, they will leave the classroom for personal reasons
- Special accommodation might be needed in the school. For example, a child with hearing problems might need to sit in the front and the teacher might use a microphone so they can hear her better.
Get to know them
Children are usually better at approaching a child with special needs than some adults. The reason is children are much less shy. Some parents may not have had any exposure to a child with a disability, so they are a bit more unsure of how to approach the situation. Parents worry about being intrusive and insensitive. But if your child doesn’t know how to approach a child with special needs, we offer some tips:
- The majority of parents with children that have special needs would prefer that other parents ask them directly what their child’s circumstances are. Smiling or a simple hello is acceptable.
- Even if the child is verbally challenged, there are still some things they can do. Board games, drawing, and coloring are good ideas.
- If your child shows interest in hanging out with a disabled child, encourage it! Meet up with their parents and discuss their child’s interests.
- Talk to the parents. They will surely be happy to plan a fun playdate or special outing.
- This can be a great chance for your kid to learn new things. Often schools offer some classes on sign language, and if they don’t you and your child can learn them together.
Learn more about different disabilities
- Read picture books with your younger kids and have a discussion
- When your kids get older, read some books on disabilities together. This way, they’ll be educated and well informed.
- Explore the internet and learn about different kinds of special needs
Awareness in schools
You can always find out if your child’s school offers any disability-awareness programmes. This will teach children about different kinds of disabilities. The school can do this by exploring different activities and sometimes using guest speakers. You can always offer to volunteer if parent volunteers are needed. This can be a wonderful learning experience for both you and the other students involved.