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OK so... How do I explain disability to my kids?

(9 Posts)
scoobydooisawimp Mon 29-Oct-12 21:16:48

I know it is a difficult subject, and I've had a couple of glasses of wine so please bear with me....

Today I took my two boys, 5 and 7, to a local cafe which is managed by the council and employs adults with disabilities, mostly mental disabilities.

My children watched the paralympic with interest, and asked lots of questions about people with physical disablities. I explained it as best as I could and they just accepted it, and now I hope they understand physical disability better.

However, today (and we have been to that cafe many times before) my kids asked lots of questions about people with mental disabilities.

How do I explain this to my kids? What is the best way to encourage them to be open minded, respectful, inclusive, and kind to people with all sorts of disabilities, mental or physical?

Also, on top of this, my youngest son has a severe speech disorder and he asked me 'do I have a disability mum?' It was hard, I struggled to find the right way to answer... How do you talk to your children about this?

A bit deep, I know, for a Monday night... but any helpful hits, tips, books would be very welcome...

Ineedalife Mon 29-Oct-12 21:24:58

Personally I have always gone with, everyone is different and some people are good at somethings and other people are good at other things.

As far as your youngest goes, only you can decide what you tell him and when.

My Dd3 has aspergers and i have only recently told her about it. She is 10 btw.

Good luck whatever you decidesmile

bochead Tue 30-Oct-12 09:51:19

We are religious so the speech goes summat like this:-

Someone can be older than you
Someone can be bigger than you
Someone can be richer than you
Someone can be wiser than you
Someone can be faster than you
Someone can be stronger than you
But noone is BETTER than you, for we are all equal in the eyes of our creator.

We also talk about about different people are good at different things and not so good at others, but that we all work better as a team by contributing our own strengths and helping others with what they are not so good at.

DS sees this in action as I carry his elderly Aunty Daisy's shopping but that she has THE most amazing recipe to cook when we get back from the shops.
Or that I'll organise a craft activity for his friends, but someone else's Dad will sort out the physical activity in the park. DIY is another example. Most families have enough in-jokes to do this easily & gently with a bit of humour(Mum always forgets to buy milk, so Dad gets it on the way home from work?).

The important thing is to make sure you demonstrate it in every day life rather than just academics. He knows the rest of his class can write better than he can, but hey he's good with animals and very kind to toddlers. I think the important thing is to make sure that they feel the things they find hard (conversation perhaps in the case of your child with a language disorder) is not the only thing that gives an individual value iyswim. At 5 &7 it's about your raising a whole wee person not a one dimensional cut out of what they "should" be able to do.

mymatemax Tue 30-Oct-12 10:13:37

some people have blonde hair, some have brown.
Some need glasses to help them see, soem dont.
Some people need a stick to help them walk, some may need a wheelchair to help them get around.
Some learn to read and write and count and speak easily
Some people take longer to learn these things

We are all different, we learn things at different speeds and some need more help than others

mymatemax Tue 30-Oct-12 10:14:38

Just a personal thing but many people dont like the term mental disability, most prefer learning disability.

marjproops Tue 30-Oct-12 19:53:06

when DC was in infant school (mainstream with support) one chiild said 'she's stupid cos she's brain damaged'.

was so upset, it was what the child had been told by her mum, a teacher at the school, which I duly reported to headteacher and teacher got a good rollocking off Head for it.

I ended up explaining to the child -i was teaching there too- by saying everyones differentt and asked this child what they were good and not so good at. they said good at maths but not so good at reading.

I said there you go, everyone has different things, and everyone looks and speaks different....cant remember what else but Head very kindly gave the class a lesson on special needs and showed a dvd of 'something special' and the kids were much better with DC.

it IS difficult and you'd think in this day and age, and especially after the paralympics people and children would be more savvy to it.

elliejjtiny Tue 30-Oct-12 20:44:42

DS2 (aged 4) has physical disabilities and uses a wheelchair. DS1 (aged 6) has just started asking questions rather than just accepting it (probably other children at school have been asking him as DS2 started reception this year). I just said that people are good at different things and that some people find certain things very difficult so they have things to help them eg great grandad finds it very difficult to hear so he has a hearing aid. I also said that we can all learn from each other and help each other because there are things he can help DS2 with and there are things DS2 can help him with. I gave an example that I can help him with his homework and he can help me remember things I've forgotton.

BreastmilkDoesAFabLatte Tue 30-Oct-12 21:34:16

Watching this thread with interest, as DD (2.10) has just started asking questions...

At the moment, I'm trying to focus on explaining what people with disabilities can do rather than what they can't (eg 'look, he's talking with his hands - I can only use my voice' or 'wow, she can push herself about in that wheelchair - I bet you couldn't wheel your own pushchair') but I'm aware of the limits of saying that as disability does bring limitations and stresses too..

Lougle Tue 30-Oct-12 22:31:40

I personally feel that it's (sometimes) as harmful to present disability as so 'normal', as it is to present disability as 'all-defining'. There are are principles which are absolutely true, but I think that children need to understand also that disability isn't just a variation on 'normal', because when they get older, they will see the limitations disability brings for themselves. That isn't actually very clear, but it's clear in my mind what I mean!

For our DDs (6.10, 5.2, 3.6) the explanation we've given is that DD1 was born with a poorly brain. We don't know why it's poorly, or how it got poorly, but DD1 found some things more tricky than other children, and the doctors looked at her brain and saw that it was a bit poorly. That means that she finds some things harder than other people. But, it also means that she's super friendly, and very very funny, and <insert other cool things>.

That explanation is something DD1 finds comfort in and she often asks me to repeat the story. DD2 has taken to calling it a 'hard brain' and DD3 has caught on.

For example, DD2 (5.2) read the entire book 'Green Eggs and Ham' by Dr. Suess today. Nanny asked her how she was able to read it all, and she replied 'because I'm 5, and 5 year olds can read on their own. And 6 year olds, and 7 year olds....but not hard brain 6 year olds...' She'd obviously realised that her theory didn't pan out because DD1 can't read the book, but she was able to rationalise it by the fact that DD1 has a disability.

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