Teaching young children respect for people with disabilities


#1

I volunteered to lead a group of 5 year-olds in our vacation Bible school, and my assistant is a young man with a disability and is a wonderful helper. One little girl points to him and asks me out loud 'Why does he sound funny?', to which I replied 'I think he sounds fine.' And then we went on with our activity. I know the young man felt embarrassed, and I was caught off-gaurd by the girl's bluntness, but I wondered what might be a better response to a young child who has a question such as this? We have a few more days left of VBS, and I have a feeling that this little one will be persistent in her questions. Any good ideas?


#2

Remind her that the young man who talks funny is a beautiful and glorious child of God. We don't know why God made him special, but we do know is that what sounds like funny speech to you sounds like the voice of an angel to God.

Remind her that it's impolite to talk about people, because it might hurt their feelings. If someone made fun of her, or pointed it out that she talked funny, how would that feel?


#3

i think it's best to acknowledge the difference. Telling her "i think he sounds fine" ignores the fact that a) he probably does sound different and b) dismisses the child's perception of the world around her, which does her no good.

I think it better to say, "Oh, you noticed that teacher'sname sounds different! yes, he does sound different than you or I. Some people sound different. Some people walk different etc etc.God wants us to love and respect everyone, he made us all to be beautifully different!"

Anyhow, this is the approach I take with my daughter, She is profoundly deaf and goes twice a week to a children's hospital for speech therapy and aural rehab. We see all kinds of kiddos there will all kinds of differing abilities and we talk about it A LOT. We talk about how some people have cochlear implants (like she does) and some people don't. And some people need help to walk, and some people don't. And some people look like big people, but on the inside they are still like babies. We talk about how it's ok to be interested in differences, and to talk about them, and even it's ok to feel scared about them, but it's not ok to be mean. We must always be loving and respectful.


#4

If he's comfortable, have the young man, or his parents, come in and discuss his difference with the kids. Have an awareness day. Have some of the kids blind folded or wearing hearing protection so they can't hear...etc. It can be a wonderful teaching moment.


#5

I like Queen Anne's idea of not dismissing the observation. Remember, children don't see these types of questions as rude... they really are just curious! Talking about how there are all types of people in the world, but are all made by God and therefore beautiful is a great lesson to learn early on in life. Of course, it can be brought up that while our differences make us unique, some people don't like to have their differences brought up in front of a lot of people, so it's best just to treat everyone the same, unless someone needs special help to be a part of the group, and then we simply give them the help that they need to feel accepted.

Growing up, I had the privilege to be exposed to a lot of people close to me who were "different" - a friend's sister who was severely mentally and physically handicapped, a good friend who was deaf, my dad, who is legally blind, and about half of my neighborhood was adopted, both locally and internationally. From physical differences, to different family situations, I now know how lucky I was to be exposed to so many different types of people. These differences weren't hidden, but accepted as a part of daily life, and explained as needed, but not dwelt upon.


#6

[quote="Rascalking, post:2, topic:207585"]
Remind her that the young man who talks funny is a beautiful and glorious child of God. We don't know why God made him special, but we do know is that what sounds like funny speech to you sounds like the voice of an angel to God.

[/quote]

I like that. "What sounds like funny speech to you sounds like the voice of an angel to God." As true for an adult as it likely is for a child. Thanks for your message. :)


#7

You should tell her the truth on the level that she can understand. Tell her that he sounds "funny" because he has XYZ disease and that makes it hard for him to talk, and we will have to listen harder to understand him. It would be an excellent idea to have him discuss his handicap and let the kids ask their questions. There are no bad questions, that is how we learn from and understand each other.


#8

[quote="havana1, post:6, topic:207585"]
I like that. "What sounds like funny speech to you sounds like the voice of an angel to God." As true for an adult as it likely is for a child. Thanks for your message. :)

[/quote]

No problem.


#9

[quote="Catholic1954, post:7, topic:207585"]
You should tell her the truth on the level that she can understand. Tell her that he sounds "funny" because he has XYZ disease and that makes it hard for him to talk, and we will have to listen harder to understand him. It would be an excellent idea to have him discuss his handicap and let the kids ask their questions. There are no bad questions, that is how we learn from and understand each other.

[/quote]

I really object to the term of someone sounding "funny." What, pray tell, is the criteria for someone sounding "funny"? Have you ever heard Mike Tyson talk? He talks like a 3-year old little girl. When a child asks why Mike Tyson talks so "funny," are you going to tell that child he's disabled? I don't think so. I just think there's something astoundingly ignorant (sorry, but it is) about teaching kids that a disability, whether developmental or otherwise, is a "disease." It's not.


#10

I agree--don't just dismiss it. You can even look online to find lesson plans for teaching kids about disabilities. kidshealth.org/ has easy-to-understand explanations for some types of disabilities. This is definitely a teachable moment--you may end up being the only one who teaches those kids about differences and acceptance.


#11

[quote="KathyP, post:1, topic:207585"]
I volunteered to lead a group of 5 year-olds in our vacation Bible school, and my assistant is a young man with a disability and is a wonderful helper. One little girl points to him and asks me out loud 'Why does he sound funny?', to which I replied 'I think he sounds fine.' And then we went on with our activity. I know the young man felt embarrassed, and I was caught off-gaurd by the girl's bluntness, but I wondered what might be a better response to a young child who has a question such as this? We have a few more days left of VBS, and I have a feeling that this little one will be persistent in her questions. Any good ideas?

[/quote]

I think the best way to handle blunt questions is with relatively direct answers. This girl asked a perfectly reasonable question but she needs direction in *how *to ask such questions tastefully.

In the case of this little girl I think I'd suggest that the correct terminology to describe the young man's speech would be "different" rather than "funny". Then I'd offer the simplest explanation for the way the young man sounds (which would not make the young man feel embarrassed). Presumably this young man sounds normal for someone who has his type of disability.


#12

Thanks for the great answers everyone! I feel this is opportunity for a 'teaching moment', and I realize how I needed to handle the situation better. Sometimes I'm just not so quick on my feet when I'm caught off guard like that. I will definitely use your suggestions, and hope to answer the girl's questions without making my helper feel awkward. :)


#13

I don't think the blind/deaf "experiments" have a place in a week-long VBS. What is needed is to simply talk about differences. There's a lot of reasons why children would perceive that a person "taking funny" which have nothing to do with disability. I knew a priest who had a very effeminate voice (but not intonations). I know women with deep voices. I know people with French-African accents, and Spanish accents and Canadian accents and deep southern accents. To children all of these people would "talk funny". The person with a disability cannot help it any more than could a Canadian. I have always used the approcach that it's "different and ok" and not "funny" and to be feared or laughed at. I always try to avoid the disabilities speeches especally around young children because they are innocent and (esp in bible school) may struggle with understanding why they can't be "fixed". Focusing on the idea of difference being ok takes the pressure off being "broken"...which is why I dislike the blind/deaf experiments.

I love the idea of telling them that we have to listen "extra careful".


#14

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