Children, by their very nature, are an inquisitive lot. They have questions, test boundaries, and will say and do things without fully understanding the consequences.
This can create awkward situations when children come in contact with a disabled individual. Unless a child has had the opportunity to learn about disability etiquette, chances are their interaction with someone who is disabled could be unintentionally hurtful.
Here are some guidelines you can discuss with a child, especially if you know in advance that the child will be in proximity to a disabled person near term.
- The first and most obvious is to talk to your child about how people come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors and abilities. Although a person may look or act different on the outside, stress to your child that people are very much alike on the inside. Encourage your child to ask questions and show them examples of disabled people and how they interact in the world. It is never too early to begin teaching your child to be empathetic.
- Make sure your child understands that wheelchairs, canes, crutches, walkers or service dogs are not toys that are meant to be played with, leaned on, stared at, or pointed to. Explain that they are an extension of the disabled person, just as your child’s fingers, toes and other body parts are an important part of who they are.