There may come a point where you have to explain to your child why another child has a disability because of a friend, sibling or classmate they know has one. It can be a tricky thing to try to explain to a child but there are ways to make it easy for them to understand, here are a few ways to talk about it with your child:
How to explain disabilities to your child
Ask them questions: Ask your child a list of questions to get them thinking and to help them understand.
- What is your classmate’s name? It’s a self-explanatory question; you want to avoid referring to their classmate as ‘the kid with ________’.
- Does he/she do things differently? This question will show you what your child believes is different from themselves, here you can address this situation by stating that just because their classmate is acting different doesn’t mean they are not like each other.
- How does it make you feel when you see them doing something differently? Finding out how your child reacts to their classmates actions will help you decide the best explanation and route to teach them. They are most often curious or confused.
- What are the things you like about your classmate? This question will help them see past the differences and allow your child to focus on the common interests they share.
Break it down: Don’t be afraid to use drawings, diagrams, analogies or simple examples when it comes to explaining what the actual meaning behind their differences and disabilities. Keep it basic with phrases like, example: ‘Autism is something you are born with it, some people have it some don’t’, or ‘Classmate’s Name, has the same brain as you but it works differently from yours’ and etc.
Keep it simple and short: This conversation does not need to be long because it can overwhelm your child. Keep it short and informative. Make it a casual conversation that teaches them what they need to know and answers their questions. Keep it positive and your child will be positive.
Reacting: Children are not naturally mean or hateful beings, so their first reaction to a child with a disability is curiosity and then confusion. Sometimes a curious and confused child may not know how to deal with their feelings and can react in negative ways. Your goal as an adult is to teach them that it is okay to be curious and confused but that their reactions should be gentle and kind. Your child needs to know that there is no reason to treat their classmate differently and that they are just like themselves.
Prepare for questions: Children are curious and always seeking knowledge, they want an answer and will ask many questions to get them. Prepare for questions after the conversation and to follow days or even weeks later. Always be open and willing to listen to their questions.
You may not deliver the talk as smoothly as you want and your child may not understand it right away but the point is that you have the talk. Keep it simple and light, answer questions they have and teach them that their classmate is no different than they are and should not be treated differently. For more information you can reach out to the teacher or parent of the classmate for help.