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Teaching kids about disabilities

Kids with disabilities have plenty of challenges to contend with, not least the effect their disability has on the people around them, particularly other kids.

Young kids don’t have a filter and often make loud comments about people who don’t look the way they expect. As a parent there’s nothing more embarrassing than your 3-year-old saying in a loud voice in the supermarket “Why is has that man got his head on wrong?” about someone with a deformity.

It’s difficult to teach youngsters about disabilities – especially when you don’t have first-hand knowledge and maybe don’t know enough to give them the information that will help them to develop compassion for people who don’t operate on the same level as themselves.

One child is trying to help shape other kids perceptions by visiting local schools in Dorset. Paddy is 11 and has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. He’s unable to speak and his movements can scare younger children. Paddy and his Mum, Gemma, are visiting schools to help children understand that, despite his disabilities, Paddy is just another kid, even if not quite like them.

Every child is unique

Every child is different from the others in their class, some are tall, some small, some have red hair, some have blue eyes, the combination of all their personal attributes makes them who they are.

Children need to learn that disabilities are not something to be frightened of, but just one of that child’s differences. Teach you kids the difference between compassion and pity. Kids with disabilities don’t need pity – they need acceptance. Just because they are different doesn’t mean they can’t be included. Your attitude as a parent will help to form your child’s attitude to people who appear ‘different’.

A disability doesn’t have to hold people back

If a severe disability was a reason to not try, Stephen Hawking would have been another unknown disabled man. He chose to use his brain, even though his body wouldn’t allow him to move around like most other people.

Madeline Stuart from Australia has Down’s syndrome and so does Kate Grant from Northern Ireland, but that hasn’t stopped them becoming fashion models and has paved the way for others on the international fashion catwalk.

There are actors and actresses who have disabilities, there are sports people who compete at the highest levels with disabilities, there are people in almost every industry who could have said ‘I can’t do that’, but they didn’t, they followed their dreams.

They are amazing role models for kids who are fortunate to not have any additional challenges. Teach your children to see people with disabilities as people, not as the disability. Whether they have a physical deformity or a condition that hinders their ability to communicate, they have feelings and dreams and much more, just like you.