Autism reminds me of a rainbow. No two colors are the exact same shade. It would be difficult to find a person on the planet who doesn’t find beauty in a rainbow. No two people who have autism or other disabilities are the same.
People with disabilities make up a rainbow of beauty in the world for those who see them for who they truly are and not only see a disability.
This short list was compiled to support you as a parent to find a way to speak to your children about disabilities without feeling puzzled about it. As a special education teacher for children with autism, this list is close to my heart:
- Allow your child to ask questions. Your child simply wants to know about the other child. Children observe so much. They hone in on differences between them and others very quickly. Please know that pointing out differences is not a problem; it is simply an observation. Have your child ask the other child questions about their likes and dislikes. This will help keep your children from fearing other people who look different than them, especially when they realize they love playing dolls or eating pizza too!
- Arm yourself with knowledge. Knowing about certain disabilities and talking with your children about what those disabilities might be like will help. Your children will be fascinated and ask more questions. Check out library books that are age-appropriate about autism or other disabilities.
- Schedule play dates. Many of my friends have children who have autism or other disabilities. I schedule play dates with them as often as possible. Play dates are important to help your child form friendships and develop more empathy for others. It allows your child to open their eyes to differences. Remind your child that differences are great! They make the world a more colorful place.
- People first language. This may take some getting used to, but always talk about a person first in a sentence. Never say “autistic child.” Instead, say “child with autism.” They are a person, not a disability.
- Be flexible. Parents of children with disabilities might have to change plans at the last moment due to many factors. Being understanding and willing to reschedule is very important.
The world needs more kindness and inclusion. If we set our sights on those two things, we will not steer our children in the wrong direction. Encourage yourself to see every person through a lens of love and acceptance, and your children will closely follow.
Originally published October 2018.