6 ways to talk junior about someone’s disability

Use these strategies to foster an attitude of acceptance in your child when he interacts with disabled people.

Your child will meet someone with a disability sooner or later. It could be a classmate in a wheelchair, a cousin who’s on the autism spectrum or an uncle with Down syndrome

Disability is all around us, so it isn’t something we can or should avoid. The first step to being a more accepting society is to remove any form of stigma on people who act or look different.

“Difference frightens people ― we are built to understand ‘same’ to be part of a tribe we feel comfortable with. And difference, either consciously or unconsciously, bothers us,” notes social and behavioural therapist Katy Harris.

“The good thing is that there’s an element of compassion to our discomfort, too, because we wish for things to be ‘typical’ for that person as well. We have an inner sense of wanting everyone to feel included.”

The difference between someone who responds well to a disabled person and someone who doesn’t, is how often they’re exposed to these people and situations. “Children who have a disability in their family for example, often display higher degrees of active caring. They have both the empathy and the confidence to act on it,” adds Harris.

In case you’re wondering, children as young as 3 or 4 are conscious of differences ― that someone walks, talks or acts differently from them. At this age, however, it’s fuelled by curiosity rather than caution.

“Asking about aspects of disability is ok as is referring to it and including it. “You’re not required to ‘be careful’ when asking about it, as long as it’s not done with any judgement.”

“Many children are curious, but their parents somehow, and subtly, give signals that that curiosity is not okay,” Harris points out. “So, a tension is formed between what they want to know and what they are allowed to know.”

Harris adds that perhaps teaching children about disability as part of their early education would help to cultivate a sense of empathy and inclusiveness from a young age. It will surely beat tiptoeing around the subject ― something that often irritates a person who has a disability and his or her family.

“Asking about aspects of disability is okay as is referring to it and including it,” adds Harris. “You’re not required to ‘be careful’ when asking about it, as long as it’s not done with any judgement.”

Approaching the topic of disability is never easy, but it’s best to be prepared when your child comes to you to clear their doubts. How well you respond to junior’s questions can determine what your child takes away from that conversation and how he or she responds to differences and disabilities in the future. Here are ways to tackle the topic…