Do you remember growing up? Numerous challenges facing your way and you just standing there, not knowing how to cope with what the future throws at you. Growing up is hard enough but for children with disabilities, this can be even more difficult. They are often confronted by their peers who don't understand their pal's situation or condition enough to show empathy or to treat them with the respect they deserve. In return, disabled children can often shut down into their own little worlds where they feel safe and secure. This is not something to be taken lightly. As a clear cry for help, you as a parent, guardian, or teacher should look for the best way to address this emotional state without having to compromise the child's trust.
How to address children with disabilities when they shut down emotionally?
Seeing a kid feeling less worthy or not being able to communicate with their friends as they should, could be one of the toughest things one might have to endure. Luckily, this is something that can be controlled if approached the right way. Having a deep conversation with the child can help them loosen up their fear of communication and open up to new friendships & possibilities. Try talking to them explaining why they should not feel any different than the rest, why they should mix with other kids and have as much fun as they are having. Being disabled is not something to be ashamed or scared of. It is something that must be embraced as such. This will allow them to feel the liberation they have been craving for. Now they can start living their young lives with the necessary adjustments that will allow them to fit into the world perfectly. This will mean providing them with the right mobility aids, placing the needed equipment at the proper spots, etc. Once you help them get a grip of these moments, they’ll be on a winning streak.
We do not recommend persuading the child that people with disabilities are just like everyone else. Instead, try to acknowledge that they may be a bit different, but make it certain that being different doesn't mean something bad.
Educate the child on how to talk about their differences but do this in a respectful manner. Share some ideas on how the child can talk about their disabilities with someone who is somewhat ignorant of their state so they can have a conversation starter. Or if you have a child that has a best friend that’s recently become disabled, educate them on how they should approach them in a respectful way without hurting their feelings. For example, you can say things like, “Jack's muscles don't work like ours. That's why he can't walk as easily and may sometimes need your help to get somewhere. You being the great friend you are, will assist him getting there, right?”
- Sit down and learn about different disabilities together - Doing some research with your child can help you both get some insights on how to get information on unfamiliar conditions.
- Prepare them for difficult questions - Some of their peers may not be familiar with the kid’s physical disability and may ask some inappropriate questions. This is expected, thus we have to prepare them as much as we can by practicing some of the possible answers they can give. Some of the questions may be: “Were you born this way?”; “Will you ever be able to walk?” and similar.
- Accentuate similarities - Even though people with disabilities are different from the rest in terms of limitations, otherwise, we are all the same. Try and point this out to your child when explaining their condition. Try and accentuate things kids with disabilities have in common with the rest of the kids. For example, “Sarah is good at math, just like you are. And you both love to watch the same movies.” This will make them feel right at home and take the pressure off.
- Get them an assistance dog. This will not only gain their trust back but make them feel more comfortable and safer knowing they have a furry friend by their side.
How should schools and teachers approach children with disabilities?
Being a teacher that has been assigned to educating a child with a disability in their class is a true honor. We say honor because you must be a sincere, calm, and responsible person to focus your attention on someone who will always be grateful for your dedication. Many teaching strategies are at your disposal to ensure an efficient, progressive, and productive learning environment and experiences for all children, especially kids with disabilities. The truth of the matter is that there is no concrete way to teach disabled youngsters because everyone learns in a different manner with a variety of methods that simplify their tasks.
What you can do is prepare the classroom with the necessary equipment needed to provide continuous movement through the premises.
Here's a short list of initial things you should do to make movement easier for students with disabilities:
- Eliminate barriers and obstacles by rearranging movables to provide an open path to where you will sit while conducting the everyday lessons for children that use wheelchairs.
- Provide a mobility aid that will help the disabled person even further.
- If there is to be a debate that will last for a longer period of time, suggest for all the students to move to a wider area that is going to be comfy to all.
- If the disabled child has an assistive person with them, do not address the helper. Communicate with the student directly and make them feel as welcome as possible.
- From time to time, don't forget to ask, “Is there some way I can help?”.
- Never make assumptions about a student’s disability or capabilities, every individual is different.
- Start early on the teaching materials. You may need to convert the current materials into more suitable formats.
- Advise disabled students to share their accessibility concerns.
- Promote a welcoming and civil attitude encouraging students to respect people’s differences creating an inclusive environment.
- Raising a hand for students with upper-body disabilities could be impossible. Always make sure to make eye contact and include the student in discussions.
- When planning outdoor activities, always think about accessibility.