Jessica Lamb is a special education consultant. She taught special education for six years, and has a son, Luca, with a significant disability. She believes that parents have the responsibility to guide their children through the complexities of life, and teaching them about disabilities and differences is certainly one of them. “We don’t want our kids to think that disabilities and differences in the human race are taboo or off limits,” Jessica said. “We want to show them how to be leaders of inclusivity in their homes and communities.”
Jessica is very passionate about the topic of this feature because it is close to home for her, especially for her son, Luca. “It is so important to me that he be treated with respect and love and that others know he is a person, a child, just like any other,” she said. Jessica has created a social platform to spread awareness about disabilities and share parenting tips and tricks.
She has shared the following suggestions with us on how to teach your kids about disability and differences:
- Allow your child to ask questions about disabilities
If we are always shushing their curiosities out of embarrassment, we send the message that disability is not okay to talk about. It is okay to talk about and we should talk about it! If your child notices something different about someone else, do your best to explain it. If you can’t, ask the person or family for permission to ask them questions. We should treat this the same as asking someone about any feature about themselves. Disability is not taboo.
- Point out similarities more than differences
Your child may notice that another child has a wheelchair, and it is totally important to address that by saying, “Yes, he uses a wheelchair to get around. We all have different ways to use our bodies.” Then, seek to find a similarity between the person and your child, such as, “Wow, his wheelchair is blue! You love blue. He also has a Spiderman shirt on. Maybe you could ask him if he has seen the new movie?” We can explain the differences, but kids need to know that the different parts are only a small aspect of what makes up a person. They shouldn’t learn to define others just based on these differences.
- Read books, watch movies, and participate in community activities that include people with disabilities
Get out in the community and find opportunities for your child to interact with people who are different than themselves – cultural fairs, parades, festivals. Go to a museum or a cultural hall. Help your child to expand their world beyond what they see everyday. The more we are surrounded by people who are different than us, the more comfortable we become.
- Encourage your child to see that they have differences as well
The color of their eyes, their interests, the things they need to be successful – they are different too.
- Promote and model inclusion
Challenge your child to play with other kids outside of their comfort zone. Encourage them to invite some different friends for a playdate. If they are staring at a child with a disability at the park, walk over together to introduce yourselves. When you see people with differences, model for them how to talk with them and why it is important to be inclusive. Our kids learn the most from watching us, so always be aware of those little eyes and be sure you are setting the right example.
Jessica’s suggestions are an inspiration to everyone, not just parents who are seeking to teach their children. Ask questions, find similarities, recognize your personal differences, and interact and be inclusive. Check out her Instagram page, Skip To My Luca, for more parenting tips and tricks. “I use my platform to advocate for individuals with disabilities and do my best to spread the word that we are all more alike than we are different,” she said.