As the new school year started, proud parents were showing off their children’s first day back-to-school photos on Facebook, myself included. It was wonderful to see photos of smiling, happy children for the most part in their new school clothing and bright backpacks.
One status update in particular did catch my attention:
“6 year old: ‘Momma! Guess what? There are TWO kids who learn differently in my class this year (referring to the special needs kids). That's lucky, huh? We are already friends.' "
This particular status brought a lump to my throat; it rang very closely to my heart. As many of you know, I am a mommy to a child with special needs.
It brings me joy, but also hope to know there are kids who value those children who are different. As parents, we also have a huge part in teaching our children how valuable those children can be even if they look or act differently.
Other children have asked me why my son acts a certain way. I have found that most of the time a simple answer is all that is necessary. As adults, we tend to shy away from talking about it or we get too technical in our description.
I usually very simply say that Ethan sees the world around him a little differently and the way he acts is his way of processing it. Depending on their age, I may say that Ethan has Autism.
I found that kids are happy with a simple answer and often they will respond with how there is someone in their class who has Autism or a relative.
Parents, I would encourage you to answer your kids’ questions simply and honestly, but also with respect. Don’t be afraid of their questions.
You will find there are everyday opportunities to help your children understand and even meet other children who have special needs. Whether at the grocery store, church, park or school – you can help them with their questions or concerns about that child. When we model respect toward those with special needs as adults, we are passing that along to our children.
We also need to be mindful that some disabilities are not physical. My son looks pretty much like other children, but there are things he does that often bring attention to him.
He is not always aware of other kids and at parks can often run in front of a swing or talk loudly to other children. We need to be mindful of that and not always put it down to bad behavior.
Again, this is an area where we can teach our children to be kind and gracious, and to understand that every disability or special need looks different.
I am thankful that my son is in a fifth grade class that shows him respect and enjoys him. He has been with those children since he was in first grade, and I am pretty sure the reason he is respected and loved is because amazing teachers modeled that behavior.
Let’s not be afraid of what is different. Enjoy, learn and encourage your children to embrace them too. I think you will be blessed by those relationships.
As adults, we tend to shy away from talking about it...