If you have children chances are they have come into contact with a child who has a disability. How did your child react? How did the interaction make them feel? How do we teach our children to accept individuals, who are not only their age but also adults, who may be different from themselves?
A big portion of the answer is how you react to different individuals, our children watch us constantly and mimic much of what we do. The last time you saw someone with a limp, who flapped their arms excitedly, or who talked funny what was your reaction? Did you steer your children in the opposite direction? Did you crack a joke? Did you stare slack-jawed? Or did you smile politely and speak to the person if you were spoken to? How did you handle yourself?
Now that you’ve examined your own reactions, ask yourself if you’ve ever discussed differently abled individuals with your children? Tell them it is okay to ask questions instead of stare. Staring is rude, asking a question opens up a chance for your child to learn about other people. Tell them that other children who may not look or act the same as themselves still want friends. Emphasize it is okay to be friends with people who have different abilities and encourage them to play and get to know these kids. Let your children know they may need to change the way they play with other children, but that they may find playing a different way they learn something new. Above all else make sure you let your children know people with different abilities than they have are still people too.
So what happens if your kid hits it off and there is a play date? Is there different playdate edict for going to play with a differently abled child than for going to little Billy’s house? This may vary depending on what the child is bravely facing. A simple call before the playdate could resolve any questions you may have. If Jenny has Autism she may be overstimulated by Barbie dolls but loves playdoh that her mom already has available. Both are fun just one is easier for Jenny to process. If Ralph has seizures maybe the video games aren’t a great idea, but Legos are better. If Sarah has Spina Bifida and uses a walker, roller skates may be better left at home, but playing in the yard is still going to be a lot of fun. If you ask a parent they will be full of ideas.