We have all been out and about and seen people coping with special needs. But what do you do when you are out with your children? Do you turn them away and try to ignore the situation or encourage your children to accept everyone, no matter their differences.
Let’s face it. We are all different. Unique. Special. Some of us have blonde hair, some brown, some red, pink and even green! Some of us have dark skin, some pale, some with freckles or sun spots. Some of us are musically talented, others succeed in sporting endeavours, and others have incredible artistic talents.
But, we are all different. Unique. Special.
And some of us have bodies that don’t work as properly as they should be. We may have been born this way, or it may be the result of an illness or accident. These may be physical differences, or brains that don’t work the way they should. And sometimes people express their emotions differently to what we expect – by using movement or sounds to express themselves.
So how do we teach our children to show respect to those people with special needs? By not hiding from them!
When you are out and about with your children, don’t ignore people with special needs. Wave, say hello and acknowledge them. Talk with your children about what they have seen and explain honestly and openly. Discuss how some people with special needs express themselves in different ways.
For younger children, there are a number of picture books that are fabulous to share with children including Special People Special Ways by Arlene Maguire , What’s Wrong With Timmy by Maria Shriver and Keep Your Eye on the Ball by Genevieve Petrillo
For older children, watch movies such as Forest Gump or I Am Sam and discuss the differences that some of the characters have.
Consider volunteering with a special needs group or go to events dedicated for special needs people and get involved. Organisations such as Bust a Move Dance or many sporting organisations including Football Federation Victoria offer programs for those with special needs
Remember to take care in how you describe people with disabilities. Avoid outdated and derogatory terms. Remind your children that the person is separate from the condition for example – “The child who has autism” and not “the autistic child”. When your child starts to stare at someone and asks “what’s wrong with that lady?” explain to them simply that the person moves or communicates in a different way.
And finally, tell your children that disabilities aren’t contagious. You can’t catch a ‘disability’
Embrace the moment. Everyone has incredible qualities and gifts, some may be seen and some not so obvious. And remember that when you see someone who may have a disability, they still need friends. And understanding.