Understanding Disabilities

Life can be hard for kids with a handicap or special needs.  It may be difficult to communicate, read, write, or use a computer — stuff that’s normal for most of us.  If a student has a physical handicap, just getting around school or behind a desk may be tough.  Anyone who feels different may have difficulty making friends, leading to isolation.

We can help.  It may be hard at first, because we don’t know what to say or do; but if we try, we may find a new best friend.   The first step — say “Hi and tell them your name.  If you noticed you have something in common, mention it.  Are you in the same class?  Did you notice a book they’re reading or a game they’re playing?  Would they like to sit at your table during lunch?

We have to understand that not every handicapped student wants the same kind of help.  Each person has a different personality, ability, skills, wants, and needs.  So it’s important to ask if it would help if you carried a backpack, opened a door, or helped them get lunch.

The most important thing we can do is to be a friend.  Remember, meeting kids and making friends can be hard.  Some kids might tease them or make fun of them.  We can tell a bully to back off.  If that doesn’t work, it’s important not to get into a fight or an argument.  It’s hard, but it may be best to tell a teacher what you saw and have the adult handle it.

As we get to know challenged students, we’ll learn a little about what it’s like to be in their shoes.  Adults keep telling us “we are the future.”  If that’s true, we can change the world by trying to understand, respect, and value all disabled people for their unique abilities and strengths.

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