Including You – Learning about disabilities as a family

(U.S.) – How are you talking to your children about disabilities?

Including You is brought to you by the Tuscarawas County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

There are a lot of different kinds of people in the world. As parents, it’s our job to ensure our kids know about these differences and more importantly, accept them. When it comes to disabilities, experts encourage parents to be sure they don’t send a message that those individuals are completely different from everyone else. According to, parents and guardians can start these conversations by first pointing out similarities. Say things like, “Lucy is good at math, just like you are. And you both love to listen to the same kind of music.”

Exerts indicate that helping your children see how they are similar to those with disabilities will help them better relate to those individuals and can help increase their empathy.

You can learn about disabilities together

Parents aren’t expected to have all the answers. It’s actually the opposite. It is expected that you have a lot of questions. The point is to learn about disabilities together, as a family. Researching a disability together can help you show your child how to educate him or herself on unfamiliar topics.

  • Look for kid-friendly websites that explain autism, Down syndrome, learning disabilities, or others you may have questions about.
  • Read age-appropriate books about disabilities, and look for TV shows that bring awareness to specific conditions. For example, Sesame Street has a muppet named Julia who has autism.

Through education comes tough questions. Be prepared.

If you don’t know, it’s okay to say that. Let your child know you’ll need to educate yourself and learn more before answering. A few touch questions you may face include:

  • Why was he born like that? You can turn to facts and science, if you know by saying something like, “when he was in his mommy’s belly, his foot just didn’t grow the same way as yours.” Or, you might give a spiritual answer that reflects your own beliefs.
  • Is she going to live to be a grown-up? Questions about living and dying are always difficult, so you may want to turn the attention to all of the things being done to keep that person healthy. Saying something like, “I don’t know, but doctors and scientists are working to find a cure.”
  • Will she ever be able to walk? You likely won’t know everyone’s prognosis, so you may say something like, “I’m not sure, but I bet she’s working hard along with her doctors to do the best she can.”

And overall, experts say to promote kindness and sensitivity to others. Unfortunately, it’s likely your child will overhear unkind words used to describe other people at some point. And, there is a chance they will repeat those unkind things. Talk about unkind words in a positive way. Explain to your child that such words are hurtful and it’s not okay to say them.

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