Topic: “How can I respond when my child points out a child with special needs?”
In honor of Down Syndrome Awareness Month, we are welcoming mom & volunteer, Jaclyn, from our friends at GiGi’s Playhouse Milwaukee to answer this question. We love her answer and tips. Read & Share!
“Great question! I think there are many different ways a parent can help answer this question. First, I believe it’s important to recognize the child for asking. Secondly, I think *how* we answer the question is equally important as to *what* we say. For example, if we shush the child or distract the child, it can teach them that their observation is either not important or that you are uncomfortable answering the question – which then in turn models for the child discomfort or shame. So! It’s important to practice your response ?.
Saying something like:
-Oh, that’s a good observation. We all have differences and similarities. Thank goodness or the world would be a very boring place!
-Yes, I noticed that child’s wheelchair too. Some people use wheelchairs to help them get around.
-(if you notice the other parent heard your child and appears to be engaging) Well, I’m not sure – maybe we can ask their Mom about her?
-Well, that’s a good question. I don’t know why she has that brace on (or _____) but I’m sure there’s a reason that helps her. What do you think?
-When I see someone different than myself, I get curious too. Why do you think ____?
The follow up conversations can sound like this:
-Remember that person we saw …. do you know anyone else who uses a wheelchair?
-What do you think it may be like for that child?
-Do you know anyone at school/church/family who also has ____?
-If you had that medical _____ how would like people to treat you?
-What are some things we could do next time we see someone with ____?
-What do you think it would be like if we had a friend like _____?
-Are we able to guess what kind of personality that person has based on how they look? Probably not, but we could try and get to know them first. What do you think?
I was recently at the park with my boys. Another little kid saw Holden’s braces on his feet and I heard him ask his Mom why he had them on. The Mom said it was probably to help him walk better and suggested he might like to play with him. It made my heart smile and I approached her and struck up a conversation. The boys all played together like typical kiddos. I imagine if that Mom would have answered in a different way, that interaction may not have occurred. His question was addressed with kindness and supported with encouragement to get to know my son, despite a difference that her child had noticed. As they said good-bye and started walking away, I heard the little boy say “those braces are cool and I bet if I got some, I could run faster!” So in that one interaction, a difference was noticed but not feared or shamed. It became “normal.”
Please encourage your kids to be kind, ask questions and get to know others despite their differences. Not only could it brighten their day, it may also brighten ours ?.”
Thank you for sharing with us Jaclyn!