Monday, May 5, 2014

Getting Kids to Understand Other Kids With Disabilities: What Can They Do and Learn From It?

I have 3 children and not 1 of them have a disability, however, that doesn't mean I don't want them to be unaware not understanding. All through school I always volunteered with the disabled children, I have a soft spot for down syndrome-my cousin has down syndrome, and I always enjoyed my time with them. I had 1 boy named Stan that would never leave my side and only let me walk him to class. After about 12yrs or so I came back to visit my old town and there I was in a grocery store hearing someone just call me name over an over-not even taking a breath of air. I looked around and there he was, my Stan! He remembered me through all my changes and never forgot me. It hit me than if you give yourself to someone or something you can make a difference.

When kids see other kids with something they are not sure about they can stare or make faces or point. I teach my kids not to do any of those, but do encourage them to ask them to play and if old enough ask them why they are in a wheelchair. I would rather my curious child be active with them and ask questions so they can better understand.

For instance one day we met a boy about my older daughters age that was completely blind. After we got home I asked her to walk around with her eyes closed using only her other senses to get around. Then I asked her about her experience and what she thought he went through on a daily basis. I did it as well as a reminder we all see or hear or feel things in our own unique way.

As people I encourage my child to embrace and not judge. I want them to be inviting and not to keep people they feel at arms length because the look different.

One day I knew my son had listened when on his 4th grade field trip to the government building. My son was a star hockey player and friends with just about everyone. About midway through the trip a boy from another class with down syndrome, it was a small school so everyone knew one another, came up to my son and started to hug him and hi old his hand. I could tell he was comfortable with him. Then when they all sat down he sat right by my son. Once did he ever push him away or not hold his hand or not hug him back. He was happy to hold his hand and get that hug not caring about any other classmates and what they might think. I was so very proud and thought about how people probably viewed him-just into sports and nothing else. They could not be further from the truth.

Then again he made me proud when he took Kung-Fu in the inner city where for once he was the only boy in the school that was caucasian. He never once asked me to change and he embraced some new culture. He even went with me to help in the soup kitchen not far from the studio. I even caught him sneaking extra rolls to this mother with 2 small children.

So before we judge someone we should consider we don't know them or their circumstances whether they are disabled or not. We should teach our children to embrace one another because they are children, not because they seem different. We should teach them that yes, everyone is different but that doesn't mean we should treat them different.