The Misconceptions We Reinforce When Talking to Children about Disability, and Solutions

Last school year my youngest daughter befriended a young boy, Jonathan in her class with Down Syndrome. A few months into the school year she and my older daughter were having regular conversation about playing with Jonathan. Throughout that stretch of time I was met by periodic questions and comments about why Jonathan. Why doesn’t Jonathan say words? Why does Jonathan have different rules than other children? Why does Jonathan have his own teacher? Many times the questions came across as rhetorical. It sounded like the came out of a conversation that the teachers had with the students. The questions were more about receiving confirmation from me, a former early childhood special educator and researcher of high-quality inclusive education. But I wasn’t confirming what other adults were telling them. Most often, I was clarifying misconceptions.

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Filling a Cracked Bucket

Recently, I’ve been discovering that my techniques and strategies to talk with my soon to be eight-year-old are insufficient. For the past couple of years when I have been asked a question about this confusing complex world we live in I pulled ideas form books, television shows, and movies she was familiar with. She was engaged and the conversations never had a conclusion.  It was open for ongoing follow-up questions from either of us.

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Why Don’t We Ever See Children With Disabilities at the Playground?

About a week ago, I was supervising my daughters as they played on a playground.  This was a new playground for us.  It was pretty typical.  A ground cover of wood chips, slides, bars to climb across, walls to climb up, etc.  They also had six swings, two for babies and toddlers, two traditional and, less common two adaptive swings.  These swings are typically blue or red, look like an upright reclining chair, and have four chains connecting them to the cross bar; two in the front and two in the back.  They are designed to support children who do not have the size, core strength or muscle tone to sit on the other swings. Also rare for playgrounds were the rubber walkway/ramps that wove through the wood chips.  Each ramp lead to a piece of playground equipment.  I took brief notice of these features, but I didn’t consider them something worth pointing out to the children.  I was wrong.

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The Re-imagining IEP and IFSP Meetings

This article was originally published at https://kristiepf.com/the-elephant-we-fail-to-see-guest-blog/. It was published with a focus on early childhood education, but the concepts apply to all level of education.

It was mid-April. The speech pathologist, occupational therapist, school psychologist, family and I, the early childhood special educator, were gathered around a large round table two feet off the ground, all sitting in child-sized chairs for Jose’s kindergarten transition meeting. It was our fifth of seven kindergarten transition meetings that spring.

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Child Sex…Trafficking?

Since our children were infants, we have always talked about human sexuality bluntly.  We refer to body parts using the anatomically correct name, we don’t hide or shame the early sexual curiosity, and babies do not come from storks.  Of course, at six years old when my oldest asked, “Daddy, I know babies grow inside their mommies belly and come out of their mommy’s vagina, but how do they get in there?” I turned flush red and surprised the children with the news that mommy was coming home with donuts.  I was very relieved that she forgot she asked the question…especially since that is very, very unusual.  She has not asked since…but when she does, I’m a little more prepared, because I know it is critical to talk about sex when children are young.  However, when she asked me about child sex trafficking, I was not prepared.

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When Your Child Discovers Derogatory Words

My daughter discovered a new weapon in her arsenal of language.  Sister, you’re an idiot!  Daddy, don’t be an idiot! Mommy’s an idiot!

Several years back, a good friend of mine introduced me to the terms “teeth and claws words.”  These are the words that can hurt people.  That worked great until my daughter began hearing cuss words tossed around on the school playground this year.

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