Discussing Disability with Kids

Discussing Disabilities with Kids

Teaching children about others with disabilities is an important part of parenting. No two people have the same physical abilities and children should be taught to embrace people of all abilities. When speaking to younger children it’s important that you use child friendly phrases that they are capable of understanding. My youngest daughter is three years old. Her understanding of my paraplegia is that Daddy’s legs feel asleep when he got hurt and now they can’t wake up. Will she understand severed nerves and central nervous systems? Of course not, she’s a toddler. She does understand that sleeping people do not move so it was a natural analogy for her.

My daughter Tay is also a specially abled child. When she was 6 months old she was diagnosed with throat cancer and had her entire voice box removed. This has left her as a mute. Is she different in any other way? No, she’s only silent. When we meet other children I explain to them that Tay can’t speak because she had a boo boo in her throat that the doctors had to fix. Tay uses pictures and her hands to talk to people, but she still likes to play with babies and other games. I address the disability but I also make sure I include the ways that Tay is the same as any other small child. I also tell the children to come ask me if they do not understand what she wants to do or if they have a question. Having a toddler with communication struggles can cause great difficulty when trying to tell their friends what they want. We try to limit the amount of activities available at one time for the group of kids. We can play babies or playdoh right now. We can use the pretend kitchen or we can climb like monkeys over the furniture. This makes Tay’s ability to communicate with pointing more effective. She is now pointing at the playdoh table instead of a random room full of toys where the playdoh is located. We also need to get creative as parents when including able bodied children into our disabled worlds. Our play centers are designed around our needs at home. It can be easier to teach an able bodied child to appreciate the things your child is capable of than it is to modify an able bodied game for your child.

Encourage diversity in your home by discussing disabilities with kids at a level they understand. Ask them thought provoking questions so they understand the struggles other children may have in their daily lives. What would be hard for you to do if you couldn’t speak? What ways could you use to tell other people what you wanted if you didn’t have a voice? Play a quiet game and see how you do at making your intentions clear. What would be hard to do if you were in a wheelchair? What games would you like to play if you couldn’t move your legs? Sit or lay on the floor and see what activities you can come up with without using certain muscle groups. More importantly teach your children to be kind to others. Children with disabilities are no different than other children. They love to play, cuddle, be told they’re intelligent, and be praised. They love to be included with all children and to make new friends. A few minutes of education at home can change the lives of children and how they perceive others. Teach them to embrace it and be creative in the ways that they are capable of playing with others.

3 replies
  1. Jason Anderson
    Jason Anderson says:

    I have been a reader of your blog since day 1. I find it odd that of all the stories you have written about and all the times you have mentioned you daughter Bella, that this is the first mention of Tay. Even in your first blog where you introduced yourself there was no mention. What gives?

  2. Luke
    Luke says:

    Tay was recently placed with us through foster care and we are going through the adoption process currently. When we began writing blogs back in January she was not in our home. We are also expecting another child late this summer via private adoption. We weren’t hiding her, she wasn’t a part of our family at the time. Thanks for asking!

  3. Anna Marie
    Anna Marie says:

    I’m sure you already do something along these lines, but just so other people out there know, there is an EXCELLENT video series called ‘Signing Time’ (and Baby Signing Time) that teaches ASL. We get them one-a-week from the library, here, and they. Are. Amazing. In this case it would be for Tay to communicate with others and not vice versa, but that’s neither here nor there.

    Not sure if it’s encouraging or not, but the homeschool movement is really growing out there, and as someone who’s been doing that scene for ten years, now… I have to tell you that it’s really pushed for the home ed kids to learn ASL in addition to their second language. It’s all over the ‘Net. Which is amazing (for you guys), because never before has there been a drive to learn to communicate with the deaf/mute community like there is, now. (And that’s pretty amazing, considering the leaps made in correctional areas with cochlear implants, at the same time.)

    We moved from Baby Signing Time to Signing Time to LifePrint (and now we alternate ST and LP every other year)… so ASL is a huge part of more and more people’s lives. Mostly I use it so that I don’t have to yell at kids out loud in public. (My favorite signs are ‘Too noisy’, ‘Be nice’, ‘STOP. NOW.’, and ‘You okay?’, although if we’re at a water park or something, my husband might let me know across a distance that he’s taking a kid to the bathroom… and he doesn’t even have to walk all the way over to do it. VERY handy.)

    Okay. Rambling. But there’s that. If you haven’t looked into them, you might like to. I’d skip Baby Signing Time and do the two Signing Time volumes, because they’re geared for three and older… she’d be fine with them. My five year old loves them.

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