Celebrating Differences

My younger brother, Amir, is a compassionate, kind, silly, rule-following, Hot Wheels-loving, resilient 20-year-old, and he happens to have autism.

When my children were much younger, they didn’t notice that their uncle had special needs. I figured that since they grew up with him always being around, that they may never question his differences since that’s all they knew of him. That was pretty naive of me. Things got a little challenging when they reached an age where their maturity matched (and soon surpassed) their uncle’s.

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I remember sitting them down to talk about Amir’s special needs and his diagnosis. He also has Language Based Learning Disorder, Borderline Intellectual Functioning, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.

There were a lot of questions, and I made sure to answer all of them with honesty. We talked a lot about just having patience and throwing in a little bit of grace. But we also talked about respect. Amir is their uncle and an adult. They needed to be reminded that they should show him the same respect as they show other adults, even though Amir’s maturity level isn’t always that of a typical adult.

Seeing beauty in the differences of others really needs to begin at an early age. You can begin by celebrating the differences within your own household. Then, when you’re out in public with your children, be sure to provide good examples of engaging with everyone. I remember one specific time that we were at a restaurant, and my daughter was staring at a child that was in a wheelchair. At the time, my daughter was in kindergarten. My first thought was to whisper, “Stop staring!”, but instead I looked over at the child in the wheelchair and noticed she had a set of pink wheels. I smiled and said, “Wow! Look at your pink wheels – those are so fancy!” The look on my daughter’s face changed; she was excited and interested, and the tension lifted.

As long as we can continue to have an open dialogue with our children about the beauty of differences and be leading examples of what it means to be compassionate, we can raise children to embrace and celebrate all the differences in our peers.

It’s important to have children around children and adults with special needs. There are many places you can get involved with in our area. It’s fun to volunteer with your children and has been one of the best things I continue to do with my family. We always leave feeling inspired and grateful. It gives a greater sense of togetherness and provides ample opportunities for teachable moments and opens up an important dialogue.

You can also encourage your children to invite a child with special needs to their birthday party or a play date. Imagine how beneficial that would be for both children.

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Lets be honest, we all know that children can say embarrassing things at times, but remember other adults are aware of that and it’s okay. Often times, the awkwardness can be resolved with a simple apology and quick explanation. Remember, that grace I spoke of earlier? Sprinkle a little bit of that down here as well.

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April is National Autism Awareness month. You can find more information on how to get involved by visiting autism-society.org.

How do you mamas respond to your children when they have questions about people with special needs?

 


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Brittney is a wife and mama to three. She was born and raised in Cedar Rapids, IA. Shortly after she and her husband were engaged, they moved to the Philadelphia area with their two daughters, Paris and Sophia. In the four years that they lived on the east coast, they moved four times due to her husband’s job, got married in Iowa, and welcomed their third child, a baby boy named Marz! Shortly after Marz was born, they decided it was time to move back to Iowa to be closer to family. When Brittney isn’t running her 13 and 11 year old around to their activities or have her 11-month old on her hip, she loves experimenting with new recipes, date nights with her husband, party planning, learning about photography, hanging out at Brewhemia, and binge watching Netflix on the couch with popcorn and a glass of red wine. Brittney is passionate about her faith, being a wife and mom, and making connections with other moms throughout Cedar Rapids.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Great article Brittney !!!! I agree, conversations about difference should begin as early as your child starts asking questions. We were blessed with some pretty special people in our lives when my son was young. When we lived on Ft Campbell, KY our neighbor’s son was in a wheelchair with no leg movement, ADHD, and severe anger issues. This little boy, Andrew, ended up being my son’s best friend. My son didn’t see a child in a wheelchair, he saw his friend. They played together, challenging each other in such amazing ways. The only time my son questioned things was when the Andrew would get so angry and lash out. We talked about anger, and how some people don’t have the skills and/or ability to choose appropriate levels of anger. My son quickly found ways to adapt, and help Andrew when he was angry by finding ways to distract him and defuse the situation. Through this interaction my son is a better person. He works with children on a daily basis to help them navigate through life. As you said, approaching differences with grace and honest conversation is an amazing lesson.

  2. I just love this article ! You are such a good momma, and sister. It is very important that we teach out children about differences. Especially those who have special needs. I try to make my daughter understand that you should always be polite and understanding to all. Even if they look, or act differently then you do. Great read!

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