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How to Talk to Your children about People with Disabilities

 cp awareness

March is Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month. CP is the most common motor development disorder and affects just under 1% of all children. For some children, their CP is so mild that they can function like all children do. For others, they may need the help of a walker or wheelchair and have difficulty communicating. In honor of all the children (including my daughter) who have CP, I wanted to share what we do to educate our children and many we come in contact with as we parent our youngest child.

 swing

Use “people first” language. Instead of referring to a child by their condition (or Eve is the “handicapped child” as we sometimes hear), try to find another way to describe them. “John is the boy we met at the park. He was wearing a green shirt and he gave the best high 5s”. Or if you do refer to their condition, make sure to say “Eve is the child who has CP”. Model this speech for your children so they learn to view every child as a person first, not their condition.

It’s ok to ask questions. Little ones are curious and that is perfectly fine. I prefer a questions over stares or parents hushing their children like something is wrong. I usually explain that Eve uses a wheelchair because her legs get tired easily and this is how she gets to places the easiest. Children usually love her light up wheels and the decals we have on her chair. If your child asks a question, don’t feel bad, it’s nothing new. Just model a compassionate way to ask a question and your child may gain a really awesome friend.

Include people of all abilities into your everyday life. Many children who have different abilities and their families feel lonely and isolated. I talk to families online and they wish that their children were invited to playdates and birthday parties. Don’t worry, we will figure out a way to help our child feel included and we have become quite good at adapting activities. When you purchase books and toys, do they feature children who use mobility devices? They may be a bit harder to find, but it may be a great conversation started with your children.

 

Children who have Cerebral Palsy (or any other different need) are children first and foremost. As March, and CP Awareness Month comes to an end soon, I hope you find a way to discuss this topic with your children.

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Alicia

Sunday 29th of March 2015

I so agree with this! I have tried my best to teach my kids who are 6 and 7 that just because someone might be different than them does not mean it is okay to be rude. They need to be nice and make friends with them when possible. I love getting to know other parents.

Sylvia

Saturday 21st of March 2015

I love these suggestions! I also insist that my children not describe people by their skin color too! I prefer questions to stares and will often begin a conversation about Bethany's disabilities when I notice children noticing her differences. Thanks for sharing at Faith, Hope, and Love!

Kristen from Practical Mommy

Saturday 21st of March 2015

Thank you for these great tips. My daughter just turned three and she's getting to where she is asking questions about everything she sees. So this is great timing for me.

Beth

Friday 20th of March 2015

Wonderful post! You explained and illustrated this beautifully. I found your suggestions helpful and a good reminder even as the parent of a child with Autism. I have been guilty of quieting my other children from asking questions In the past, I almost think it was instinctive, a that's how I grew up kind of thing. And those things usually take a real effort and awareness to change.

Shelah

Friday 20th of March 2015

What a great post on educating children about people with disabilities. I really like the advice about describing people as people rather than defining them by their disability.

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