Do’s and Don’ts To Help Our Child Reach Out to Those With Special Needs

special needs child

Recently, I had a mother ask me how to help her daughter appropriately respond when she saw a little boy with special needs. This is a great question! Children don’t always know what to say or do when they see someone in a wheelchair or who otherwise has a physical or mental disability. Here are some do’s and don’ts for parents to teach their kids the best way to respond:

Don’t Stop and Stare

This may seem obvious to adults, but many kids are still learning appropriate behavior concerning those who look or act differently than them. Also, if we as adults are uncomfortable, our children likely will be well. Model how to be polite and not gawk at others. If you catch your son or daughter staring at another child, discreetly and kindly prompt them to stop.

Don’t Pull Your Child Away from the Disabled Person

This gives the message that the person is to be avoided and somehow is a threat. We want to teach our kids to be inclusive to those who are different. Set the example that we don’t shun children who have disabilities, but are instead as kind to them as we would be to other children.

Don’t Talk Down to the Person

Sometimes we behave or speak unintentionally in a condescending manner to those with disabilities. This may include talking in a baby voice or speaking extra loudly. While it’s important to be clear in our speech, try not to speak to children with disabilities any differently, as he/she will very likely feel talked down to.

Do Engage in Conversation With the Child

Talk to the person like a person! It’s alright to ask something like, “Hey, how come you have a walker?” Disabled children often welcome questions, so come ask! Also, engage with the parent or caregiver to ask if there’s any way your own child can be a friend to their son or daughter.

Do Speak Appropriately About Those With Special Needs

Unfortunately, many today still use the R-word in a derogatory way. Even some parents are guilty of saying this, and it’s really time to stop. Let’s be mindful of our language (and change it, if necessary!) so we’re not mocking or belittling those with special needs.  It is important to teach our children that calling someone names, especially a name like “retard” is mean-spirited and more importantly why it is not appropriate. Many of us grew up in an era that these and other derogatory words were common slang, and we have to be willing to catch ourselves and be careful in our speech and talk toward and about others. Remember, little ears are listening!





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