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Children are just inquisitive by nature. How we respond to their constant questions is really important. And young children especially can ask a lot of questions. Like when a child wonders why another person has a disability or cannot do the same things as themselves due to impairment.
The Paralympics have just been completed and so inspiring to see so many talented athletes participate. But what is the best way to talk about disabilities, their impairment and the Paralympics with young children using appropriate words so nobody is offended?
The language we use at home can help shape a young person’s attitude. Our attitude has a profound impact on a youngster, whether we are talking directly to them or in the presence of them. They are listening to us!
Chances are that at some point in your child’s life, they will either be in a classroom or at a social event with a special person with disabilities. Your approach to that person and your encouragement to mix with them will determine the child’s perception and behaviour for future meetings.
Children may be better at accepting another person that is different than their parents because they are less inhibited. Some adults may be more timid. Worried about appearing intrusive or insensitive.
Here are some tips on better communication when having those conversations:
- Use language that is simple and not degrading or negative
- Look beyond their impairment and see the real person
- Tell them that every person has things they can and cannot do – some disabilities are visible and many of them are not like those with learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorder.
- If you are unsure about someone’s disability, why not find out together
- Research our Paralympians and the different athlete classifications. It may be easier for both of you then.
- Most people with disabilities would prefer that other adults ask them directly, rather than avoiding them. A smile or friendly “Hello!” is an easy icebreaker.
Children can accept a disability and want you to be honest; they really don’t care if you are not politically correct. They will ask a lot of questions and some of them are going to be awkward. They are just curious by nature.
One of the hardest things to explain was the perception that a disability had to be visible or easily identified. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. There is estimated that more than 85% of people regarded as disabled or impaired yet they have no visible signs.
People with disabilities live with their situation each and every day, not just during the Paralympics. Fortunate for those people, they can still participate in a sport and achieve the same accolades as an able body person. Many Paralympics were athletes in completely different sports prior to their disability and others have been disabled since birth. Whether it was an accident or disease, the reason doesn’t matter greatly but the child asking the questions may be curious. The benefits of anyone with a disability or impairment participating in a sport are insurmountable and encouraged.
Once a child has that explained, you may be surprised how accepting of the situation they really are.