Teaching Children How to Accept Persons with Disabilities

Being that I am a fair skinned, red head who grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I find myself frequently visiting the Dermatologist to have spots, “checked”. Here lately I call these my yearly personal donations to science as I have had one after another skin cancer removed. (PSA – Wear your sunscreen!) A few years ago, I had one that left me with a very large scar right on my neckline. It’s faded a lot but when I work out, the make-up wears off and it’s more noticeable. This was the case a few weeks ago teaching a children’s Taekwondo class. I was helping a little girl with her belt and she reached up and touched my neck and asked, “Is that a scar?” I said, “Yes, it is.” She looked for a moment and then gave me a big grin as she rolled up her sleeve.” I have a scar, too!” We both laughed and went on with the lesson. It was a connection moment between myself and a little girl and it got me thinking. I don’t know for sure how her mom or dad would have reacted had they been there when she asked the question, but I do know that often times we as parents overreact to a situation like this. When our children are curious about someone who is different from them, say, with a scar or in a wheelchair, we tend to get embarrassed and say things like, “Don’t stare!” or we pull them away quickly and scold them for being rude. I believe there is a better way to react that will increase “normalizing” those who have a disability that won’t cause children to be afraid and won’t alienate or embarrass the individual. Here are some tips to get you started: Your child says, “What’s wrong with them?” You respond, “There is nothing wrong with them, they are just different.” Lead the child into noticing what about them is the same. Talk about what someone might think is different about them. Explain that everyone has something different about them and everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Because someone’s leg muscles don’t work the same way yours do, doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them. They are simply different. You child says, “Why does he have only one leg?” You respond, “I’m not sure. He seems to be doing great don’t you think?” OR If the situation is right, ask the person if it would be okay for your child to ask a question about their missing leg. This could be very educational for your child and help them see that people with disabilities are just like them in most ways and not someone to be afraid of, shunned, or pitied. On the contrary, they should be accepted and respected just like all people. Use words like, helps instead of can’t. “The wheelchair helps him move around better.” Instead of “He needs a wheelchair because he can’t walk.” Remember, it’s okay that your child is curious. Teach them to be respectful and kind as well. Try not to lead them away from others with obvious physical disabilities. That causes fear and pity in a child for the individual and it is quite isolating to have others avoid you. Teach them to smile and make eye contact with all people. It does wonders for their own confidence, as well as makes those around them feel accepted. Do teach them to ask before helping a handicapped individual. Don’t assume they can’t do things on their own. It’s a great idea to have these conversations around the dinner table or while taking a walk, before an encounter occurs. Teach empathy not sympathy. Most people want to be respected, not pitied. One last thing. Not all disabilities are visible. Autism for instance. Speak with your child about patience when dealing with someone in their class who is on the autism spectrum. Teach them to look out for people who may be struggling and offer to help and be a friend to them. A little courtesy and respect can go a long way in making the lives of all people brighter. Remember to use the same attributes when dealing with those who have a disability. Blessings, Master Amanda Olson Master Amanda Olson is: A Master Martial Artist and Instructor of Taekwondo and Tai Chi. She teaches at her local Academy.. An Author of 2 Books – “Create a Happy and Harmonious Home” and “Parenting Survival Guide” You can find her books on Amazon by following this link. A Public Speaker – Topics include Building Confident Children at Home Helping Teens with Stress Bringing Harmony to Your Home Taking Control of Your Life You can find her on: o YouTube – Master Mom and Olson’s Martial Arts o WJHL TV – Daytime Tri-Cities o Super Talk 92.9 Radio Show o Facebook  Amanda Olson  Olson’s Martial Arts o Websites  Olsonsma.com  Askmastermom.com o Write to her at – Olson’s Martial Arts Academy, INC • 113 Cherry St. #10 Johnson City, TN 37604 o Email Her: amanda@askmastermom.com