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Talking to Young Children About People with Disabilities

Debra Jacobs

Usually I post quick activities, ideas, and book suggestions. Today’s post is a little different. I came across an article in This Little Miggy Stayed Home ( that’s too good not to share.

Miggy, who blogs about “life, special needs,  my artwork and the occasional DIY,” has a daughter who was born with limb reduction complex, with limb differences on all four limbs. She writes thoughtfully about the joys and challenges of raising a child with physical differences.

Miggy’s post titled “Talking To Your Children About People With Disabilities” ( should be required reading for all parents and teachers. I’m excerpting it below, but strongly urge you to click through and read the whole thing!

Here’s some of what Miggy has to say:

1) Everyone is different.

A great way to start this discussion is to talk about common differences like eye color, hair color and of course skin color and to point out that everyone is born just a little differently. Then you can bring in some slightly bigger differences like asking if they know of anyone who wears glasses (maybe they do!), or maybe you have a family member who uses a walker or a cane. Finally, you can say that some people are born with something called a disability. A disability is when your body or your mind is different from other people's bodies and minds. Having a disability isn't bad, sad, wrong or strange, it's just different. …

2) Questions are OK, as Long as You're Kind

… Let your child know that if they have a question about a person who is different than them, it's OK and to come talk to you or another trusted adult about their questions.

While it's important not to shame kids for their curiosity, it's also very important to let children know in no uncertain terms that certain things are not OK. It's not OK to use rude words like gross, weird, creepy, etc. Even if your child does this innocently--"she's weird!" "Yuck! Why does her arm look like that?"--please correct them. …

3) Find Common Ground

Once your child has some understanding that some people are just born differently now is a great time to find some common ground.  You can point out that children with disabilities like to do the same things that other kids like to do--they like to play with toys, watch Disney shows, eat ice cream, etc. Establishing this sameness is KEY. This is when the light goes on and children realize, oh... she's just another kid, like me. We are more alike than different! …

4) People with disabilities are Differently-abled

… it's super important for kids to understand from a young age that disabled really means differently-abled. Try to help your child see a disabled person's strengths. …

The 2016 Paralympics Promo Video is an amazing demonstration of differently-abled. Also love this one from 2012.

Of course it's also important that we don't play into the victim/hero stereotype of disability and insist that a disabled person has to "overcome" their disabilities and be some sort of "superhuman" to borrow a phrase from the Paralympics. People with disabilities are also just regular people and accomplish a lot of things that regular people do. …

5) Encourage your child to build a genuine friendship with their differently-abled peers.

Building an actual friendship is much more than just waving hi, "helping" a child with a disability at recess or even sitting by them at lunch occasionally. … Invite our kids to parties even when you're not sure it's logistically feasible, set up play dates and allow for the real ups and downs of friendship. True inclusion is true friendship.

(Excerpts re-posted with permission from