Teaching Our Children About Special Needs

Friends, let’s talk with our kids about special needs. Let’s educate them. We spend lots of time teaching them about shapes, colors, numbers…but let’s also add differences into that equation because people with sensitive hearts are at the other end of that.

Read children’s books to your kiddos about this topic. Let’s teach them that it’s okay to be curious, and ask a question (but probably not 100). Let’s teach them that it’s not kind to laugh at a child or person’s difference or say it’s ugly.

If you are someone in our circle, I’m asking you to please do this. Let’s teach our kids that differences are beautiful and that people are valuable.

As parents, we have lots of important lessons to teach our kids, and this is one. Even though my LG has a special need, I have to be intentional about educating her about special needs too.

I know that my daughter has to field questions, stares, and people touching her Lucky Fin without permission. We know this. But, from people in our circle, I want your kids to have these conversations with mom and dad first. Some of my friends have said their children would not notice Lydia’s limb difference, but even very young children (2 years old) tend to notice and ask lots of questions. So, I believe we need to start conversations with our kids at a young age.

After posting the above on Facebook, several friends asked me if I had any book recommendations.

It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr

This book is a favorite at our house. The book has the reassuring message that it is okay to be different. I love that this book includes disabilities as well as a whole host of differences (adoption, divorce, feelings, etc.). The message is very inclusive, and is suitable for young toddlers and elementary ages. It is a great book about self esteem whether or not your child has special needs. However, this book is a great introduction to talking with your child about disability and special needs.

Lydia and I spend a lot of time at different clinics because of her therapies, and because of this, we meet lots of children with a variety of special needs. I often use this book as a script with Lydia when she asks a question or makes a statement.

Amazon link: It’s Okay to be Different

A Special Friend (Clifford The Big Red Dog)
I have read every children’s book about limb differences, and to me, most seem to imply that the child with the special need should respond to the bully with the same type of force that the bully does (violence, instead of using words to kindly and assertively communicate).

A Special Friend is the best book I have found for kids to introduce limb differences. Though the book is out of print, you can find it several places online for less than a dollar. In the book, Clifford makes a new friend, another dog who is missing a leg.

I think the book is really great for introducing a child to special needs, because the other characters in the book tend to respond in ways that we have found to be true of a lot of adults and children.

For example, Clifford tries to help the new friend with everything, because he thinks that because his friend is missing a limb, the friend must need help. We experience this a lot. We regularly have to intervene and ask people to stop helping Lydia to tasks that she can do. People often email us jobs they think people with one hand can do. Y’all. Lydia can do anything, really. People also try to tell Lydia how to do something with one limb before she even tries herself. Often, Lydia can figure it out without your help. Let her use her problem solving skills.

Some of the other characters are uncomfortable with the dog’s limb difference, so they don’t want to play with him. Unfortunately, this has happened on the playground.

Anyways, this is a great little book.

Amazon link: A Special Friend

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
This is a great book about cultural and racial differences, but it teaches the reader that we all have feelings and things in common. We love this little book.

Amazon link: Whoever You Are

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

Although this book is not about disabilities, it is a book about differences. Molly Lou Melon is a short little girl who has the voice of a bull frog and huge buckteeth. When she goes to a new school, she meets a boy who is a bit of a bully. This is a precious story about differences and treating people with kindness.

Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy

This is a great book for school aged children (preK to probably 4th grade) to teach them about empathy.

Amazon link: Stand in My Shoes

Just Because by Rebecca Elliott

A sweet book about a brother and sister. The sister has special needs, but you don’t know it until later. A sweet book that helps answer the question why.

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Just-Because-Rebecca-Elliott/dp/0745962351/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

We’re Different, We’re the Same
This book pertains to all kinds of differences with the Sesame Street characters we know and love.

Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/Were-Different-Sesame-Street-Pictureback/dp/0679832270/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434312796&sr=1-7&keywords=we+are+all+different

Don’t Laugh at Me
A wonderful book about being kind to people who are different. Comes with a CD with the famous song, “Don’t laugh at me.”

Wonder

A friend of mine on Facebook highly recommended this book for older children (grades 3-7).

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Wonder-R-J-Palacio/dp/0375869026/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1434313411&sr=1-1&keywords=wonder

What other books do you recommend?

http://www.babble.com/babble-voices/what-to-teach-your-children-about-kids-with-special-needs/
http://www.joniandfriends.org/kids-corner/be-a-better-friend/