Even though our society has come a long way in how we view and treat people with disabilities, we still have a long way to go, especially with children. Even the most “open” and well-intentioned of adults (and children) are quick to make assumptions and pass judgments about children with special needs.
As a parent with a child with a disability, you have probably heard many comments and questions. Some you felt comfortable addressing and others not. While your child may live life a little bit differently than their peers, there are ways to help eliminate stereotypes, empower your child and educate others.
Encourage Children to Ask Questions
More often than not, your child’s peers may be filled with questions. But someone like a teacher or parent told them it was rude to ask questions. It’s natural and normal for children to be curious.
Even if their questions seem to be a little off-putting, wouldn’t it be easier to address questions that allowing a classmate or a friend of your child to make assumptions about your child’s disability? Making it a learning experience for parents, teachers, classmates and friends.
Have an open discussion, let your child be involved.
Hearing someone talk negatively about your child and their disability can feel crushing. No matter how many times you’ve heard things whispered (not so quietly) behind your back. If you hear negative comments about your child or someone else’s, speak up.
Jokes, slanderous language and even demeaning words to describe someone with a disability should always be addressed. You never know, your words may be powerful and effective.
Advocate for Your Child
You are your child’s most important advocate. It’s up to you to learn as much as you can. As well as use as many resources as possible so your child can have an enriched life full of opportunities.
Whether your child is in school or interested in extracurricular activities, it’s likely you will be an advocate for your child with special needs and your involvement will help eliminate stereotypes.
If your child would benefit from an adaptive program, but there are little to none to choose from, advocate and encourage such programs to be developed.
Unfortunately, many people still believe children and adults with disabilities only thrive in environments where other individuals with disabilities are present. As a parent, you know this simply isn’t true.
While you son or daughter may go to a specialized school or take a class, exclusion isn’t the answer to overcoming stereotypes. Support businesses are inclusive and have facilities designed for children of all abilities.
If businesses in your community are lacking, encourage them to make necessary upgrades. Your child has a right to be out in the community and be part of it.
While your child’s presence in the community is essential to educating and eliminating stereotypes. Your child also deserves to enjoy the same things every other child does.