As your young child begins to navigate the world, he’s going to meet people of different cultures, with different lifestyles, and with different abilities. Especially as he progresses through daycare and preschool and into Kindergarten, tackles team sports and joins play groups and classes, he’ll be sure to meet kids who have special needs. Whether another child’s disability affects her movement, learning, or communication, your child is bound to have questions about the new people he meets. Handle his questions with care in order to raise a kind and respectful child who is comfortable with the differences he sees around him. Our talking points can get you started on the right track.

friends with disabilitiesNo two kids are alike. Some children have different colors of hair. Others may be tall while some are short. A few kids in your child’s classroom may be very advanced when it comes to learning numbers and simple math, while others struggle. Some may have disabilities that can really set them apart in the mind of your child. Remind your little one that everyone has different abilities and physical attributes. Some are just more noticeable than others, but that doesn’t make another child less worthy of being a friend or a playmate.

A child’s disability does not define him. While there may be a child in your child’s classroom who has cerebral palsy, that condition primarily affects movement and coordination. This child may, in addition to his disability, love playing video games, have a great memory, and take a keen interest in dinosaurs. Remind your child to look at the things theychild with disabilities laughing with a friend have in common in addition to recognizing another child’s disability.

Teach kindness by reminding your child that a child with a disability wants friends just like anyone else. An autistic child at the playground may want to be included in a game of tag. A child in a wheelchair may not be able to run around the park with your kids, but would appreciate coming over to watch cartoons on a rainy day. Ask your kids to consider how they would feel if it was difficult for them to feel included and make friends, and suggest that they reach out to other children, regardless of differences in ability.

In addition to raising a kind child who will grow up to be a kind, generous, and thoughtful adult, encouraging your child to respect and embrace human differences will enrich her life. When she expands her circle of friends to include kids with disabilities, she will find herself learning about other peoples’ capacities for strength and perseverance, and will develop a keen perspective on gratitude, fortitude, and the ambition to overcome difficulty.