non-SN mom wanting advice explaining to kids... — The Bump
Special Needs

non-SN mom wanting advice explaining to kids...

I am not a special needs parent, but I thought this might be the best place to ask. Please, I hope my question does not offend anyone. That is exactly why I am coming here. To avoid that IRL.

Anyway, my children are 8 and 4, and although we have often had reason to go I over the "everybody is different," "all shapes, sizes, and colors," "if we were all the same then you wouldn't be able to be so special to me," you get the idea. But I don't think I have ever had a situation to properly address developmental delays, autism, Down's syndrome, etc...

It just never occurred to me because we actually don't know anyone that is affected by anything on a noticeable level. My husband used to be a caretaker for older men with various severe mental disabilities (some also physical) in a group home, but my daughter was 3 and my son wasn't even born yet. I know a few people with children that are high-functioning autistic, but most kids don't pick up on it - mine never have when they were together.

Anyway, the reason I started thinking about it is because I am forming an organization, and one of the members has a young teenage boy with Down's syndrome that will attend some of our meetings. If my kids ask questions, I want to answer them properly, educationally, and most importantly, in a way that makes the boy and his mother feel welcome and not "ogled at." Does that make sense?

Again, I really am not wanting to offend anyone. I just want to know what you would like to hear a mother telling her 4yo if they pointed out something about your child. Should it be as simple as everything else ("everybody is different" and the other stuff mentioned above)? Or should it be explained further, a little more educationally?

Ugh, I have a feeling I'm going to get flamed for even asking, but I just want to make sure that this boy and his mother feel welcome to come back.

Re: non-SN mom wanting advice explaining to kids...

  • IMO the simple answer is the best one for young children, and to only offer advice when a question arises.

    For example, since you know some autistic may happen where an a meltdown will occur easier.for the child with ASD.

    If your LO asks why the child cries, a quiet private answer (so to not shame the child melting down) like, "X is just a little sad right now." will cover it. Or with stimming, if your child asks why..."That's how X shows their excited/happy sometimes."

    Kids sometimes will speak without a filter, whether with good intentions or not. Now if your child tries to refer to them as a "baby" or something like that, correct it immediately.

    Basic respect and human decency goes a long way, whether SN or not.

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  • I know there are several books that picture children with various disabilities, including Down Syndrome. I like to use these, and see what if ant questions my child has.
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  • edited June 2014
    The daycare was taking the entire class to a fair day and I took the day off from work and I was going with them.

    DS was 4 at the time and has ASD. His speech delay was obvious and a little girl from his daycare class asked me why DS talks that way. It hit me hard but I managed to say DS is still learning in response to her question. It made me sad right there in the classroom but the little girl was nice to DS for that day.
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  • I would probably explain it age appropriately.  The 4 yr old might be ok with an 'everybody is different' type of explanation.  The 8 yr old would likely need a little more.  Maybe tell him the child has something called Down Syndrome and then see what your child has for questions from there. 

    I really hope some of the Down Syndrome mommies chime in, there are several here.  They may have ways of explaining things that the rest of us don't know of.  My son has ASD and I know I'd much much rather have a parent use an encounter with my son as a teachable moment than to have him treated as a freak show.  I'm happy to answer a childs questions (so far they are usally asking "Why does he do that?" when he's flapping his hands (I usually respond that he's excited) or "Why doesn't he talk?" (my response is usually that he's still learning to talk when kids ask).  I wanted to scream at the father than hurried his daughter away from my son when he was trying to play with her (he was looking at her and grunting and she didn't know what to do and was uneasy).  He didn't need to hurry her away, just say that he doesn't know how to talk yet and that he wants to play with her.  Sorry, point was that I think it's great that you are asking what the best way to address it is.  No flames from me. 

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  • Thank you for the responses. That is really what I was looking for. My kids may ask nothing, but I anticipate my 8yo will. And I want to use it as a teaching moment so that they can react appropriately on their own later. I just didn't want to inadvertently, though lack of understanding, say or do anything that might hurt anyone's feelings.

    I would love to read some input from some Down's syndrome moms.
  • Ds has down syndrome and I'm trying to think of how I would want this handled with my son as he gets older......I would like to think I would welcome honest, curious questions from a child asked politely, but ds is too young to have those differences show up yet....most people assume he is younger than he is since he is so small so I don't really know. I guess, I would have to go with the suggestion of speaking to the mother at a private time.

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  • I had two little twin boys at the playground ask me once why DS wasn't listening to them or playing with them. Their mom was off on a bench somewhere (I hope, I never did see who they belonged to), so I took my liberties and had a little social lesson. I explained that DS thinks and listens a little differently and that he didn't know how to play their pirate game but that he does like other kids, and he likes to play. I helped them all introduce themselves, then taught the boys how to get his attention and try to engage him in the game. They were persistent, sweet little boys so I sat back and let the peer-to-peer therapy commence.

    I am a fan of honesty at age level. Present the facts and answer questions the best you can.
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