Teaching Your Child About Others With Special Needs
Disabilities cover a wide range. Some are obvious - such as a child with a physical disability who uses a wheelchair or a child with a visual impairment who uses a cane to navigate when walking. Other disabilities may be more "hidden" - for example, children who have learning disabilities or autism spectrum condition.
Chances are that at some point your child will have a classmate with a disability. Just as you guided your very young child when he or she began to befriend others, you can encourage your child to learn about and be a friend to children who have disabilities.
Basic ideas to share with your child
No two people are the same -- some differences are just more noticeable.
A disability is only one characteristic of a person. People have many different likes and dislikes, strengths and challenges.
Children with disabilities are like all children in that they want friends, respect and to be included.
Children can be born disabled or become disabled from an accident or illness. You can't "catch" a disability from someone else.
Just because someone has a physical disability (when a part or parts of the body do not work well) does not mean they necessarily have a cognitive (or thinking) disability.
Children with disabilities can do many of the things your child does, but it might take them longer. They may need assistance or adaptive equipment to help them.
Try to use clear, respectful language when talking about someone with disabilities. For a younger child, keep explanations simple, such as, "She uses a wheelchair because a part of her body does not work as well as it could."
Special Needs at School
While each child learns differently and at his or her own pace, children with disabilities may need extra school support or provisions. Many children with special needs and disabilities attend mainstream schools; others may go to specialist schools. If your child has a classmate with special needs, he or she may notice certain things.
Special teachers may come into the classroom to work one-on-one with the student.
Sometimes children will leave the room for a part of the day for individual support.
Accommodations and provisions may be present in the classroom. For example, a teacher may wear a microphone so that a child with a hearing impairment can hear better in school.
Learning More About Disabilities
Reading or learning about a disability is a great way to further understand a child's experiences. It may also help dispel any questions you or your child may have.
Your local library can be a great resource for finding age-appropriate books and materials. We also have lots of books in school and are happy to loan these to parents on request.
Read picture books with younger children and discuss them afterwards.
Some audio-visual materials have positive portrayals of children with disabilities. "Sesame Street," for example, routinely includes children with disabilities in their episodes.
Websites with age-appropriate explanations and activities can be interesting and fun to explore.
If you do have any questions or would like to know more, the Wellbeing Team will be happy to help.