Dear Parent before the first day of school,
Nervous, excited, ready or not, wherever you land in the spectrum of back-to-school-parent feelings; the time is upon us to scoot those cute little tushies through those giant double doors of school.
You may have talked to your youngster about making friends, being polite, obeying your teacher, and even stranger danger.
But can I ask you to have one more conversation with your child before he/she sits in their new classroom this year?
Will you talk with them about children with disabilities or special needs?
There may be a child in their class who talks different or is sometimes challenging to understand. He may have behaviors that seem odd to them or even behaviors that your child already understands not to do. Some children even look different. They may have limb differences, use wheelchairs, use leg braces, wear hearing aids, communicate using a device or with sign language. Share with them that even if we have differences we also have things in common. He/she may like to run and climb on the playground with you or sit by you at circle time when the teacher reads a book, talk with you at lunch about their favorite super hero. Everyone learns at a different pace and some may take just a bit longer to figure the things out. Maybe you can encourage your child to INCLUDE them, sit with them, share with them and help show them how to do some of those mastered skills.
Most importantly though, have you talked to them yet about how each and every person is a little different so that the world is full of beautiful and special people that all offer something fun and wonderful? Tell them that different is good and how lucky they are to have someone in their class that sees or does things differently.
This may be the first time your sweet child has ever met someone like my son. And to be honest, I am a bit nervous about that. It is easy to assume that our angel-children would never be the ones to make fun of another child or leave another child out, but sometimes it is exactly said angel-child who refuses to sit by another student at lunch because he saw they had a potty accident on the playground that morning. The lessons on inclusion and kindness need to start at home where then the ripple effects show up at school.
Often I hear, “oh how sweet of little John-John for being friends with special Tommy.” Let me tell you, TOMMY is going to be a huge blessing for John-John. John-John is just as lucky to have Tommy as Tommy is lucky to have him.
If you are unsure what to say to your kid, that’s ok. Find the mama of the child and ask them. I know my son has Down syndrome. You are not surprising me with this fact when you come to me with your questions. I am simply honored that you are trying to find a way to talk to your child about it! Just like you, I am praying my little guy makes friends this year at school. Maybe our kids are the answers to each others’ prayers and that friendship is going to be even more special than we ever imagined. Let's start an inclusion revolution and let's start it in our homes with our kids.