Six Ways to Help Your Child Accept Developmental Differences
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. According to the CDC, developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person’s lifetime. We want our kids to be accepting of people with developmental disabilities, but how do we help develop that empathetic quality? In this blog, I’ll talk about six ways to increase your child’s acceptance of people with different abilities.
1. Answer honestly
It’s ok to be curious. When your child sees someone with a disability, answer their questions as honestly (and age-appropriately) as possible. Explain that some people need a wheelchair to move or some people need a little extra time or help in some situations. Maybe you don’t know about disabilities, and it’s ok to admit it if you don’t know the answer. Because I have a sibling with disabilities, I have been around disabilities my entire life, but I am still constantly learning new things. Take the time to educate yourself about disabilities.
2. Model respectful language
Children are always listening to their parents, even when we think they aren’t. Make sure you’re using respectful language. I hope by now we all know that it’s not ok to use words like retarded or cripple. It’s important to use “people first” language, which sounds more complicated than it is once you get used to it. For example, instead of saying “the autistic boy, put the emphasis on the person by saying, “the boy with autism.” It’s subtle but significant.
3. Talk about differences and similarities
It’s ok to be different, but we all have more similarities than differences. Point out that we all have strengths and weaknesses. A classmate may struggle with learning to read because of a disability, but they might be the fastest runner on the playground. We all want to be acknowledged, accepted, and included.
4. Practice inclusion
Children learn from their parents. Are you inclusive of people with disabilities? Being included is something families of people with disabilities need. From childhood, I remember the people who included my brother (who has intellectual disabilities) in activities and gatherings. I am still grateful.
5. Read about it
Reading is a way to gain an understanding of other experiences and provide insight into other people’s lives. Here is a list of eighteen great books about people with disabilities to read to your kids to assist them in developing understanding and empathy. I also want to mention a local author, Andee Cooper, whose book “Sometimes I Get the Wiggles” helps kids understand seizures.
6. No bullying
Have a strict no-bullying policy in your family. There can be no tolerance for any form of bullying, including anything about disabilities. Children with disabilities are two to three times more likely to be bullied by their classmates. Bullying can be physical, verbal, or written. Bullying is serious, with far-reaching effects. Make sure your children know that your family has a zero-tolerance policy for bullying.
March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, an excellent time to educate yourself and your children about disabilities. Fifteen percent of people in the world live with some type of disability. It is up to us to remove the existing physical and societal barriers that prohibit people from fully participating in society. Education, awareness, inclusion, and acceptance are essential in the process of making the world a better place for people of all abilities. As with most things, the best change begins with our kids.