Teaching Children about Disabilities

Most children gravitate toward people who are similar to themselves. Commonalities generate a sense of security which youngsters crave, thereby discouraging interaction with the noticeably disabled. With this in mind, teaching children about disabilities is absolutely essential.  Older members of society are obliged to illuminate young minds with the truth. We are all born with gifts, talents, limitations to varying degrees and disabilities of various types.  In today’s world, teamwork, acceptance and embracing differences are the keystones of success. Through education, adults can equip children to overcome their natural inclination of avoidance and encourage them to embrace the uniqueness of others.

Let’s take a look, for a moment, into the first grade classrooms of two very different hypothetical teachers.  Teacher One, a focused, determined instructor, holds the highest educational expectations for her students. She works tenaciously and tirelessly to provide her students with the foundation of knowledge they will need to begin rewarding academic careers. The superlative qualities of this teacher should be commended; however, she fails to recognize that the little ones under her tutelage are sadly ill-prepared to deal with the issues surrounding the diversity among their classmates. Teacher One’s omission leaves her students socially disadvantaged.

Now, let’s examine Teacher Two’s classroom. Comparatively, Teacher Two believes in the importance of high academic standards. She, like Teacher One, puts tremendous effort into passing on knowledge and preparing her students for future scholastic greatness. Conversely, Teacher Two understands the profound impact teaching children about diversity and acceptance can have on individuals, classrooms and society as a whole. Teacher Two creates a climate of warmth, kindness, and approval. She directly teaches these precious values and models them in dealing with others. As a result of Teacher Two’s wisdom and holistic pedagogy, her students not only excel academically, they shine socially as well. They are not only prepared to be successful learners, they will flourish as leaders, too.

Although young people are naturally predisposed to segregate themselves, with instruction regarding disabilities, a wonderful transformation in thinking will occur. The fear of differences will dissipate and children will realize the worth and significance of every person. They will learn that we are all extraordinary, we are all faced with restrictions, and we all have challenges to overcome. If we, as a community, invest the time and effort necessary to teach children about disabilities, together, we will reap the benefit of this magnificent metamorphosis of thought.