Learning starts at home. After that, it will depend on how parents prepare their children for all the possible scenarios they may encounter in their slightly expanded world.
This discussion, says Special Education teacher Jessica Grono, should include a very important but widely under-discussed topic: disability awareness.
Grono, also known for her online moniker “The Wheelchair Mommy,” speaks from experience as she herself is a person categorized as differently abled.
SPED teacher Jessica Grono has cerebral palsy.
In an open letter to all parents, Grono emphasized the importance of preparing their children for their possible encounter with people — both young and old— who have disabilities.
“As you sit down to discuss topics like manners, school etiquette, and homework policies, please add disability awareness and being open to friendships with children who have disabilities.”
“I am asking you to do this as a special education teacher and as someone who has cerebral palsy,” she wrote in The Mighty.
Explaining why she made this reminder, the mother-of-two said that children are often given enough knowledge about good manners as well as how to handle strangers and bullies. However, they seem to lack reminders about not being discriminatory in befriending someone who may look, act, or speak differently.
She also highlighted the fact that although kids are not considered innately bad for teasing others, they should be prepared for the potential peer pressure they may experience when they encounter children with disabilities.
“You might believe your child would never leave another child out or tease someone. I’m here to tell you that your child isn’t bad for doing these things; they are just not prepared to deal with peer pressure to make fun of someone who is different.”
Jessica explained that parents' reactions also affect how their children will react to such situations.
“Children learn by example, and they are always observing what their parents are doing,” she said, before sharing how she encountered some parents yelling at their children and “acting as if I’m going to run over” them with her wheelchair.
As a writer and cancer and disabilities advocate, Grono also shared etiquette to remember when teaching kids about disability awareness in her website called “The Wheelchair Mommy.”
It includes talking normally and directly to the person. She also reminded them to be sensitive in using terms about people with disabilities while maintaining a relaxed communication with him or her.
Kudos to you, Jessica, for all these wonderful reminders!
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