The Play's the Thing: Disabilities and the Arts

Questions Kids Ask About Disabilities

The Play?s the Thing: Disabilities and the Arts

Lucy Schaeffer

"Many people with disabilities would prefer to hear straightforward questions than to be avoided," explains former teacher Beth Myers. Simi Linton, who uses a wheelchair, adds, "How you talk to your kids will impact how they interact with us." Don't stress if you don't always get it right.

"Why can't Jenny walk?"
What to Say
If you know the answer, offer a simple explanation ("She hurt her legs in a car accident"). If you don't, it's okay to say, "I don't know. Maybe we can ask her sometime."' Remind your child that we all have things that make us different, but suggest that she focus on what she has in common with Jenny.

"Why is that big kid throwing a temper tantrum?"
What to Say
"Even though you learned to talk when you were 2, some kids don't learn until they're much older. And even kids who can talk might not remember the right words when they're angry." Foster empathy: "What could you do if one of your friends was that upset?"

"How are we supposed to play with Andrew if he can't do anything?"
What to Say
"Let's ask him for some ideas and think about what we can all do together." This allows Andrew to be the authority on his disability and gets the kids working as a team. It also takes the focus off what's "wrong" with him and encourages kids to think about their environment: Why don't the swings at the playground work for someone in leg braces? What would be a better design?

Originally published in the April 2012 issue of Parents magazine.

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