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.