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A really thoughtful friend of mine asked me how I would like for her to talk to her child, who's going to be going to the same school as VeeGee in the fall, about VeeGee's differences. I was extremely touched that she would think to do that, and I told her that I'd have to think about it. Since VeeGee's my only child, I've never really been confronted with the thought of how I would tell her about someone else's special needs (she doesn't ask any questions about her friends at therapy who are in wheelchairs or AFOs or who have trachs or hearing aides or whatever, I suppose because she's just always been around them). I'm wondering what you tell your kids when they are around others with special needs. How specific are you in your explanations and what kinds of questions do they ask? Do you preemptively talk about it if you know you're going to be around someone who's SN, or do you wait for your kid to ask questions?
 

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I have talked with DD about people in wheelchairs mostly, because she always asked about the signs. Also her great grandma uses a walker and a cane at times, and we talked all about that (and not just about the elderly), so now when she sees someone with some sort of walking aid she gets it.<br><br>
We mostly wait for her to ask questions. Every special needs person/parent who has ever talked with me about this has said they are open to a child asking questions, much more than us parents hushing them and telling them not to ask or to stare, so I pretty much just let it come up when it does.<br><br>
We also try to have books where there are special needs made apparent and worked into the pictures, but not where it's a big thing in the book, you know? (mostly b/c I haven't seen a great book yet, just ones where it tends to "other-ize" SN people) Just to have representation is good, though, I'll by a book that makes the effort.
 

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I worked in a class for kids with all different kinds of needs, all on IEP's but for various reasons...some maybe some sort of dev/learning delay that was not obvious, others more obvious--like we had kids in our class with Down's, in wheelchairs, etc.<br><br>
They asked questions like "How come he has to use that wheelchair?" or "why can't she..."<br><br>
We explained this person's legs didn't work like theirs, or how it takes different people longer to learn different things. Or just "so and so is having a hard time with XYZ right now" (behavior maybe) We also talked about things everybody *liked* to do or did well, so they could see what everybody *can* do, rather than focusing on *can't* do.<br><br>
I found the best approach was to keep it really simple and to answer what was asked. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 

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I have had the good fortune of working with kiddos and adults with special needs my kids' entire lives. So I if they have questions I can say " because of x,y, and z. You know Hubert who plays basketball? Like him" When my 13 yo was about 5 one of his best buddies was an almost 7 foot tall young man with a developmental disability. He just thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. And you know what? He is <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 

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When we went to visit my grandparents in the nursing home I talked about wheel-chairs and a little about having trouble hearing and a few other things like that so that my kids were more comfortable more quickly. But I do that about all sorts of things - my DD does much better when I explain anything beforehand.<br><br>
I also will just explain simply when we see things - like a man was walking by us today with crutches. My DD, apparently, hasn't noticed anyone using crutches before. She had some questions. I explained simply and that was that.<br><br>
When I worked at a group home for people with very pronounced disabilities I remember the way the company did orientation. They had the person who ran the house take the new employee out for coffee first thing with a scrap book. She explained who everyone was, their general interests and their diagnoses. Then we went to the house and I met everyone. It was really comfortable for me and the residents. Some of the residents had very visible differences, and I think that it really helped to not be surprised by how they looked when trying to meet them, if that makes any sense.<br><br>
I don't know if all that helps or not, but those are a few of my experiences and how I handle things.<br><br>
Tjej
 

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There is a boy with autism in my son's first grade class. The teacher must have explained this to the other kids and this is how it filtered through to my son. He says things like: S. doesn't talk with words like we do, so he talks with cards [they have some picture cards that S uses] and with his hands.<br><br>
The explanations are usually really really concrete and focused on S's ability to do a certain task, or how he does it differently. I sort of don't think my son has even learned the word autism.<br><br>
This approach seems to have worked well from my perspective, which is that the other kids do not seem to have any negative ideas about S and in fact, they are quite eager to interact with him to the extent that he is able to.
 

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My niece is special needs (trach, g tube, etc.) and we just explain what everything does for her. With other people who we don't know exactly what their ailment is, we just say that it helps them (like with wheelchairs, it helps them get around because they have a hard time walking.)<br><br>
I've followed my SIL's lead in how to explain it to my children.
 

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Tjej--I think that is absolutely *awesome* how that place handled things with new employees. It gives a much better idea of what the employee is coming to.<br><br>
I once worked in a place where a new teacher was told the students she would have were "similar" to children she'd worked with before in pull-out classes....<br><br>
UM....NOT AT ALL. These children were in full-day specialized class. The students she worked with before were dyslexic or other LD able to be in regular classes, but needing extra help in some areas.<br><br>
This special class was children who cannot spend much of their day in regular classrooms. A couple severe physical disabilities. Many entirely non-verbal or very limited communication/understanding. Diapers and spoon-feeding were not uncommon. A child or two with severe behavioral issues. And learning disabled? Far beyond. *Most* were not doing 'academic' type schoolwork at all.<br><br>
The poor teacher was entirely lost. The only saving grace was that the EA had been there a few years and knew her stuff, and most of the kids themselves. She left after one year--*nobody* blamed her. It wasn't her fault she did not understand these kids or know what to do with them--she was not given an honest intro of what she was signing on to do!<br><br>
I'm near positive--well, unless she *really needed* a job, if she'd had a photo-book intro to those kids and accurate details on every child's needs, she would've said "you know, honestly, I have *no* experience with this and I don't think it'll work out..."<br><br>
I have no idea what her level of shock must have been on that first day of school...
 

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girlprof--that sounds a lot like what we did. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> and now, I haven't had to do it much even though ds did go to preschool with some kids with SN, not many questions came home. But I do the same thing. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> I think they pick up on a general vibe of "positive" or "negative" and then bring that to their interaction (or even unwillingness to interact with) a person.<br><br>
think about the difference between telling a kid "this person can't..." versus "This person uses this to do that in a different way" Option (b) keeps the brain focused on what the person "can" do. I think just the whole positive intent and vibe helps kids then *want* to participate with that person. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 

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Peaceful Mama - Yes, they were a really great mindful company. They worked really hard to have good worker matches with the different houses (which had people with various needs). They oriented new employees really well, and were really supportive in general of the clients and the employees. They had the long term in mind when hiring people. I'm sorry your teacher friend didn't have that type of experience.<br><br>
Tjej
 

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I sometimes wonder how I should explain things to 5.5yo DD. There was a boy in her preschool with a mild form of autism and I asked the preschool teacher what to say when DD would ask about him. She told me I should just be matter of fact and explain like: T is still working on XYZ; remember when you learned to do XYZ? I don't think they ever used the term autism. Now in DS's preschool class, there is a girl with some motor skill challenges who also has a very specialized diet due to swallowing issues. It's the same thing - R needs help with XYZ sometimes, and she also needs to eat ABC. I don't think the kids even blinked.<br><br>
I think it's so wonderful for children to be exposed to all different kinds of people - able bodied and those with challenges - at an early age, and for teachers and parents to adopt a matter of fact and accepting attitude toward people that are different. I know it will make for a more accepting society when these children are older, one with less of a stigma around people who use wheelchairs or with mental illness, etc.
 
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