Teaching your Child What They Need to Know
The school year is well under way and your child comes home with a lot of questions.
Questions that you may not be ready to answer. Why do certain kids get special attention at school? Why does that student have a wheelchair? Why does that student get an extra teacher? If your child is still pretty young, chances are they haven’t yet encountered any children with disabilities. It is of the greatest importance that you are able to explain these things to your child so that they truly understand and are able to interact with any student in an appropriate manner. When your child comes home with questions, here’s where you want to start.
The basics. What this means is simply explaining a disability in general. What is it? What can children with disabilities do and what can they not do? Be sure to explain that a disability is just one characteristic of a person; if your student would take the time to talk to a student with a disability, they would find that they may have some things in common. Children with disabilities can do many of the things that your child does, just not at the same rate. Emphasize to your child that their peers with disabilities should not be looked at differently. Teach respect across the board. It shouldn’t matter who the student is, your child should respect them.
In the classroom. Your child probably has the most questions when it comes to seeing these students with disabilities in the classroom. Make sure your child understands why these students need the accommodations that they do. Make them aware of the things that might happen: intervention specialists may come in to work with these students, some students may get to leave the room for part of the day to receive individualized help, and they may see certain accommodations in the classroom depending on the student. Make sure your child clearly understand why all of these things are happening; a lot of children may misinterpret these things.
Outside of the classroom. You should encourage your child to interact with their peers with disabilities. Make sure that they are included. A simple hello could be all that it takes. If your child is really outgoing, maybe they could invite these peers to go to the park or attend a birthday party. You should definitely encourage this kind of behavior. When it comes to the role you play, get involved with the parents of those students with disabilities. There is a lot those parents can do to help, and there’s probably a lot that you could learn from them.
Research. If your child asks about disabilities, take the time to learn more about them and to educate yourself and your child. There are plenty of sources of information available to learn from, including picture books, chapter books, videos, and websites. Explore these different avenues with your child and make sure you discuss everything along the way. There is a lot that you can both learn!
Always be prepared for these kind of questions and topics of discussion. If your child asks you questions unexpectedly that you don’t know how to answer, be honest with them. Tell them that you aren’t really sure either and this is where you can take the time to research and learn together. Never make up misinformation just to answer your child’s questions. Especially when it comes to this topic, you do not want to give any information that could be incorrect or disrespectful. Teach your child what they need to know so that they can grow up to be mature, respectful, and kind people.