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Children attitudes towards disabilities

(6 Posts)
whethergirl Thu 13-Sep-12 11:58:21

DS was telling me how one of the paralympic competitors came to the school, and he was quite horrified by her disabilities, explaining to me she didn't have an arm and a leg. I tried to focus on the other stuff, like, wow - she got silver and bronze, can you imagine how fast she must swim, what else did she tell you etc. but he carried on focusing on disabilities, saying "but it's so horrible mum, that she hasn't got an arm and a leg". I told him how amazing it was to have overcome those difficulties and tried to turn into a "never give up" kind of story so that he could learn from it.

DS is only 7, so he is still operating on a basic emotional level. I didn't want to berate him for the 'pity' he felt, thinking at least it is empathy in some form.

I'd like to ask anyone with disabilities what you think a healthy attitude towards disabilities for a young child is, and what other explanation I can give to him.

Also, one time, we saw someone with crutches going up the stairs. DS told me to help him, but I'm never sure if I will offend a disabled person by asking to help - please let me know? If it was someone with a broken foot, I wouldn't hesitate to ask, but because I could see it was a disability, I just didn't want to offend in any way.

joona Thu 13-Sep-12 14:01:29

I have 2 sons, aged 9 and 5. My youngest is disabled.. he has severe cerebral palsy, which causes him to be unable to walk, talk or even sit up. He is bound to a wheelchair and fed via a tube through his stomach. He also has epilepsy & is registered blind.

My elsest son was only 4 when his brother was born but having seen him develop from birth, my eldest has a very mature undertstanding and attitude towards those that are different to himself.

However my (step)neice is only 6, and never met my son until 2yrs ago. Seeing a disabled child was something new to her, she had lots of questions. Even now she still asks why my son cant talk or walk yet, and i have to explain to her that he probably never will.

I tell her that my son was made in a different way to her, and that means he cant do the things she can do. There is only so much you can expect a child to understand about something so complex when they're young, but hopefuly as they get older their understanding will grow.

I think the main things is, for parents like me, to remember that these children are curious and will ask questions, and that we shouldnt take offence to this, just try to answer them as honestly as we can...

Any child faced with something new will not immediately understand, and sometimes we can be afraid of what we dont understand. I think as long as you bring your son up to be aware that not everyone in the world is the same, but that different doesnt mean bad, his attitude will be entirely healthy.

whethergirl Fri 14-Sep-12 13:10:58

Thanks joona for your very helpful insight. I think your last sentence really sums it up for me.

weegiemum Sun 16-Sep-12 00:16:34

I'm disabled. I use a wheelchair some of the time, and always at work.

I'm a basic skills educator for young mums who left school with no results. Some of them end up in my (council funded, HV referred) class with a reading age not much past 5 yrs.

I also run a class related to the other where we teach young mums to read to their children, in a pre-nursery school setting. It's a 2 yr program from age 9 months or so to about age 3.

I became disabled due to an acute illness in December last year and went back to work in February. When I did, several of the children came over to me in my chair.

"weee-gieeee, why am you in that funny chair?"

"cos my silly legs don't work any more!"

"ok weee-gieeee now we push you!!"

<apply brakes!!>

In my experience, toddlers are the most 'disability blind' people iknow. they ask - you answer- they say "ok now I push you!!"

To them, I am just weegie who reads them stories.

When I started this work I never thought about educating children about disability. But now I am disabled, and I'm talking-to a whole new generation about what it means to need a wheelchair!

whethergirl Tue 18-Sep-12 00:37:23

What wonderful work you do weegie. Thanks for sharing your experience.

I guess I just didn't feel comfortable with ds feeling sorry or horrified even, with a person's disabilities. I went to school with a girl in my class who had spina bifida, so for me it became very 'normal' and we just kind of forgot that she was disabled.

weegiemum Thu 20-Sep-12 17:21:11

Whether girl, thanks for your comments! I love my job, not the fundraising form filling, but my wee reading buddies are a joy and a delight!

I think the fact that your ds felt bad about the athletes disabilities is a good think. He's showing compassion. He's empathising with someone different to himself.

My dd2 (youngest dc) developed a hip problem about age 4, it's called Perthe's syndrome, her hip ball died and crumbled then started to regenerate. The only treatment is rest, so she was in a wheelchair at school for 2 years (praise be she's now fully mobile again but possibly going to need surgery to finish her recovery - and we find out on her 9th birthday which is when her next appointment is scheduled).

The children in her class dealt really well with her wheels (positively auditing up to be her "partner") and are all now the most sympathetic to other physically disabled children in the school.

I think your ds's reaction is normal - it is shocking to see an amputee, someone badly disabled (when I wasva child my mums friend had a wee boy just 2 years older than me who was affected by thalidomide, and it became my normal, no bother.)

I'd love your ds for his honesty and ability to communicate with you. He sounds lovely!!

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