Disabling the Fear
What should we be teaching our children about disability?
My daughter is at an age where she is curious. Very curious. As anyone knows with young children, there are no filters on them! I often chuckle at the questions she asks. However sometimes it can be embarrassing! For example, walking down the street there was an awful smell of manure the air. My daughter pipes up rather loudly “poooooo mummy that stinks. Is it that boy?” pointing to the teenager walking past us!
On a more serious note. While we were on holiday in Crete, my daughter spotted a boy around the same age as her and they began to play together. He had what I think is called strabismus, both eyes were turned inwards. She came to us and asked “Why does that boy keep looking at his nose, its a bit weird?”.
I have to admit, I was glad she asked us away from the boy and his family as I was conscious that such a question could’ve upset him. I tried to explain that his eyes have a problem with the muscles that control them but I’m sure he would still like to play together. She did continue to play with him. It was rather cute watching them try to communicate as he was french and we don’t speak any french other than a few simple phrases.
This left me wondering. What should we teach our children about people who look different? What is appropriate around the person they are questioning? To them that is all it is, someone who looks or acts differently to them. They ask so innocently and it’s just their natural curiosity about the world around them. But sometimes their questions can hurtful when they point out someones differences.
I certainly don’t want to hush my children and move them away. But this is usually the natural reaction, largely in an effort not to upset anyone. However I feel hushing implies that being different is wrong or embarrassing. This reaction may itself cause upset. I often wonder should she approach the family/person and ask them her questions, but then I fear this may be rather rude.
I think next time (because there will be a next time) I will start by not hushing her but either saying I don’t know why e.g he doesn’t have hands or if I do know, then explain the condition. Then I will tell them “it’s ok that he/she is different to you, maybe they would like it if you asked them their name or played with them”.
I want to encourage her to interact without being rude! I want my children to be inclusive not exclusive.
If you are a parent of a child with learning difficulties/disabilities or different appearances reading this, could you help me with this one.
How do you as a family cope with the reactions of other people around your child?
What is your advice to parents trying to teach their children about disabilities and differences?
I saw a pin on Pinterest which linked to a blog called ‘Bringing up Betty‘. The blog post linked has mum Courtney talk about her daughter Brenna, Brenna’s condition and how to respectfully approach a stranger who looks different. It helped me think about how to handle the situation but I’d love to hear what you all think.