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How we can teach our children to talk to people with disabilities without feeling awkward | ParentEdge


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Strike Up a Conversation with a PWD without Feeling Awkward

Strike Up a Conversation with a PWD without Feeling Awkward

More often than not, parents get uncomfortable with queries raised by their kids on seeing Children With Special Needs (CWSN) or Persons With Disabilities (PWD). To brush away such questions and settle for instructions like “don’t look there” or “come here” are some of the common responses parents choose instead of making an attempt to educate them with facts and the right information.

Chances are high that your school going child has already encountered someone with a disability and if not, might in the near future. How you deal with the curiosity of a child lays the foundation for his perception about disability when he grows up.

An open, unbiased, informative discourse on the issue of disability is a part of constructive up-bringing. It can be a first step towards building an an empathetic, sensitive person, who will respect diversity and welcome inclusion. However, I can’t help but notice that even parents give a confused “what do I say” sympathetic look when they bump into someone with disability. Even genuinely interested and empathetic people find it awkward to approach a PWD for fear of being incorrect.

To avoid such situations, read up and think about the following:

1. Respect the Person First, Disability Later: Remember you are meeting a person, not his or her disability.

Kick-off small talk with exchanging greetings like we do on other occasions, relax and be yourself. If you are meeting a CWSN, pick on common interests areas that your children share, such as hobbies, TV shows, school, current affairs etc. Feeling sorry for their condition or showing pity is a big no.

2. Talk to the Child/ Person Directly: Address the person directly, if you wish to know his/her name. Assuming that the person is incapable of introducing himself is a foolish presumption.

Disability is just one of the attributes a person may possess, either by birth or acquired after some untoward incident. But it doesn’t imply they are less expressive or lack mental acumen (except in the case of intellectual disorders). In fact, enquiring from a secondary source while ignoring presence of the child you wish to know about, is rather rude even in generic situations!

3. Watch Your Pitch, Kid and Choice of Words:  Even if you got the first two right, you might trip on this one. Yes, people tend to talk too loudly to CWSN or PWDs, as if they possess a hearing disability as well. High pitch, repeating queries, getting impatient, avoiding eye contact are all signs of your conversation going off the tangent.


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Shweta Chooramani is Manager of Corporate Fundraising at NGO Samarthanam, which works for the empowerment of persons with disabilities through education, sports, rehabilitation and income generation activities. She fulfills her love for writing by contributing to several blogs, along with being a full-time mother. Her personal blog can be read at http://sinhasat302.blogspot.in/

2 thoughts on “Strike Up a Conversation with a PWD without Feeling Awkward

  1. Chetna mehrotra

    Shweta has written on this very pertinent yet ignored topic in our community these days.I loved the first picture which shows the actual difference between disabled people and people with disability.I believe in this regard people keep follow the myths and things heard rather than having their opinion or approach.they also forget always that someday they might face a similar situation among their near and dear ones.One needs to embrace this on a human level then being responding only when it comes to self related individuals.

    Great piece Shweta !!!

  2. Shweta Chooramani

    Thanks Chetna for reading the article and leaving your reflections. As you very rightly said, disability is something we all are susceptible at unlike other lifestyle or public health diseases. Its better we change our mindset and prepare the next generation accordingly, who is already running low on patience and tolerance.


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