Back-to-school season is almost upon us! Can you believe it? When it’s finally time to send the little ones off, it’s important to ensure they are prepped and ready to learn new things and make new friends, including classmates who may be different. My son Mikael is autistic, and while he may not look different than other children, it’s relatively evident once he starts speaking. However, there are children who not only sound “different,” but look “different” as well. Today’s guest poster is Laura Harrison who will share some tips on teaching your kids about disability etiquette.
When Laura Harrison takes her 5 y/o son Jonas out to lunch, the mall, or the park – parents and their children tend to stare. Jonas has a vision disability and uses a walking stick. But that doesn’t stop these two from conquering each day! Laura has made it her mission to make sure all children have confidence and feel beautiful through her children’s eyewear brand Jonas Paul Eyewear – and when it comes to day-to-day interaction, she encourages parents to learn how to talk to their kids about others who may be different from them. Here’s a quick look at her advice:
My 5-year-old son, Jonas, has low vision and uses a walking cane to explore the world around him which makes him a little different from other kids. And since children can be very blunt, asking questions like “what’s wrong with your eyes” and “why do you carry that stick,” Jonas is going to have to be comfortable with answering the same questions repeatedly while realizing that his peers are just inquisitive.
However, the great thing about children is that once their curiosity is quenched, they quickly move on and treat the child as a peer, often overlooking that difference and including them in whatever they are doing. This is why we feel it is important to enable your child to “roll with the punches” and respond with confidence and grace, as it will help them to make friends quicker and realize that they can be friends with those that are “different” from them.
These experiences my son has had inspired me to make sure all children feel confident and beautiful through our children’s eyewear brand.
When it comes to day-to-day interactions at school, help your kids better understand others who may be different from them. It’s easier than you might think, too! Consider sharing these quick tips with your child to ensure they’re taking part in making the classroom an inclusive place for everyone:
- Start with a Smile! Don’t be shy. When your child sees another child that may look different, don’t be afraid to interact.
- Tell Your Story & Discover Our Story. Jonas loves to show off his walking cane, it’s how he gets to experience the world. We enjoy telling everyone we meet about how he uses it to explore the world around him. Don’t feel nervous to ask questions, it’s much better than just staring.
- Have a Normal Conversation! Once other kids get to know Jonas, they become instant friends! Saying hello and asking questions will start a dialogue about how we’re alike and encourages kids to see past their differences.
- Lead by Example. Children learn best while mirroring their parents. If your little ones are too shy, they’ll follow mom and dad’s lead!
School is a place for kids to learn and grow, embracing the similarities and differences of those around them. Inclusivity can start with informed, responsible parents like you!