Have you ever been out with your children and seen another family with a special needs child? Do you struggle with how to help your kids interact with children who are different from them? How can you, as a parent, guide and lead your children in being sensitive to others with special needs?
Tips To Foster Special Needs Awareness
Helping your children learn about children with special starts at home. Here are some tips you can use:
- Watch videos of Special Books By Special Kids on YouTube.
- Ask your children if there are any children with special needs at school?
- If yes, has your child ever said, “Hi” to them?
- Ask them what they can do to show your school mate acceptance? (If they can’t come up with an answer, you can suggest they wave, say hi, or write them a card.)
- Coach your kids to find something kind to say. “I like your dress.” Or, “Your hair is pretty.”
- Encourage your children to ask special needs kids to come to play with them or ask, “Want to be my friend?”
- Check out your local Make-A-Wish Foundation for ways to get involved
Do A Craft
If your children are young, consider this craft activity:
Take an ink pad, have your child place their thumb on the pad and then place their thumb on paper. If you have more than one child, add the second child’s thumbprint next to the first. If you only have one child, add your thumbprint. Then have your child (ren) look at the thumbprint.
Ask: Are the thumbprints different or the same? This will help your children see visually how we are all different. This is the first step to help them accept differences in each other and others.
Out In Public
When you are shopping or at a restaurant and your children see a special needs child, take the opportunity to help your children understand those who are different. If another child is in a wheelchair, let your kids know they need extra help to get around just like grandma needs a cane.
If you notice your child staring, gently ask them if they want to say, “Hello.” If he/she says yes, ask the mom questions. As a special needs mom myself, I welcome questions, especially from children. I have been asked questions like, “What is your son’s diagnosis?” or “Why does he need that tube in his neck?” I explain my son has dwarfism and he will always be little. I also share how Samuel needed help at birth because his lungs were too small. The doctors helped him by placing a tube called a tracheostomy.
If your child prefers not to interact, gently let them know everyone is different. If you know the child’s diagnosis, you can briefly explain it to them or take the opportunity to look it up on the internet at home.
Video of Samuel’s Interview on Special Books By Special Kids
Special Needs Awareness on Sesame Street
Sesame Street is helping promote special needs awareness by adding a character with Autism. They want to create greater empathy. Sesame Street is hopeful that this brings awareness and will decrease bullying. This new addition to the Sesame Street family of characters helps to engage dialogue within families at an early age.
One Mom’s Journey
Shelby Simonson took her 4-year-old daughter, Avery to a museum. Avery has a form of dwarfism called Collagen 2 dysplasia. After entering a playroom at the museum, two young boys grabbed some items and sat down to play with Avery on the floor. Shelby’s heart overflowed with joy for her daughter. Her joy, however, was short-lived. The boys’ mothers grabbed their children to take them away and said, “You can play later.”
In Shelby’s words: “This was the most soul-crushing feeling to see Avery so excited to play to have it taken away from her from being different. She is now old enough to grasp what is going on and it is breaking my heart. Avery is small yes, fragile no. Your child is not going to break Avery, hurt Avery, or do anything but play like an average kid with her.”
Shelby encourages parents to not rush their children away but suggests parents can educate their children. She continues, “Knowledge is power if you have questions or concerns as a parent… ASK we won’t be offended. If your children have questions, let them ask!”
As you can see, Shelby is open to questions, discussion, and open-hearted conversation. Opening the gates of communication helps foster awareness which leads to opportunities for your children to embrace those who are different.
How do you encourage your children to engage with those who are different or those who have special needs? Comment below as your tip may be just what another family needs to help their children grow and foster awareness.