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How would you explain a mentally challenged person to your child?

When I was a kid, they were called TMR students and teachers told us they were "special". I think some people think the term "special" is derogatory now. Young kids do notice something is different. So how do you gently and respectfully tell your child so that they don't blurt something out?


Asked by Shanna84 at 10:32 AM on Dec. 8, 2010 in General Parenting

Level 24 (18,695 Credits)
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Answers (12)
  • Well my children have Autism and Fragile-X Syndrome.....I often find myself explaining my children to other children and to adults....and the teachers at my school explain to the neurotypical is not a simple explanation....There is a book called A is for Autism and F is for friend....there is a video that reads this book that I think is a great way to explain....take a look : The woman who wrote this book is here on cafemom ! And quite frankly, the term special is fine in my books ! as long as used correctly...pair it with the word "needs"....he/she has very special needs. I tell people that my children need things explained to them in different ways. They learn differently. They sometimes have to use pictures or signs to communicate. They bhave a hard time making friends, but they have feelings to. I tell them a smile goes a long way.

    Answer by FXmomTo3 at 10:45 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • I watch a physically disabled child every other week and DS, who is 5, is there with me. I just explained to him that everyone is built differently but we all have feelings. So he can't just ask why that person looks weird or talks funny or why they can't move. He still asks people about their differences sometimes, but mostly he asks me first.

    Answer by kmath at 10:38 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • ,,,,continued from above....I tell them that my children enjoy playing but they sometimes don't know how to play....I tell them its okay to play with my children or to play beside them, but that sometimes if they don't understand it may seem like they are ignoring them....I tell them they are not ignoring them, but trying to figure it out...they are always watching and learning in their own way. I encourage contact, even if its just to say hello....and sometimes I make my children say hello or at least wave to someone who might be staring....not to make the onlooker feel badly, but to make my children feel like the other people wanted to say hello and were too shy....I'm very open to talking to other parents and allowing questions....many parents are....but there are also some who are quick to take defence. The part I have a hard time with is when my son needs to be restrained in public....continued below....

    Answer by FXmomTo3 at 10:51 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • I just tell my daughter that everyone is different and God made us all special. I dont refer to them as special but just that they are diff and that makes them special just as it does her. I also tell her that its not nice to stare and that it can hurt ppls feelings and make them cry. She responds pretty well to that. Shell be 4 in two weeks. Thats really all you can say at that age.

    Answer by Steph319 at 10:36 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • I always beleived that we all come here for a reason--to set an example for someone else--even if it's good or bad. Life is about learning, otherwise our souls would not advance. To me, I believe that those who are born with handicap or disabilties are our most advanced souls, and they are a prime ex of pure why we notice that those with handicaps seem to see no "hate, color, or race." They are blinded by society's brainwashing. I would tell my child that they are special, because when we one day pass on, they are the teachers on The Other Side, and when they are here with us, they are setting an important example for everyone else. They may "seem" like they don't "know much"...but they are pure non-judgeamental, and only wish to be loved.

    Answer by psychicRaelene3 at 10:41 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • I still use the term special with my stepson when he asks. Also, I do tell him that we're all different.

    Answer by bseastrand at 10:41 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • My kids have Autism. No two autistic kids act the same. Each mental illness/disability is totally different. Epileptic kids, for example, would be different from an Aspie kid. I would simply explain that they were born with certain problems and require special needs the same as any kid that has a physical disability and should be treated with the same compassion and understanding.

    Answer by Zoeyis at 10:53 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • I answer like alot of you have, thank you FXmomTo3 for your input, those are just great suggestions to help talk to our kids about it.

    Answer by choco_mom at 10:55 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • ....continued from son is very agressive and self-abusive and some children may find this disturbing to watch.....but I've learned to remain very calm when I have to deal with this publicly and if there is a child close by watching, I make sure that child gets an explanation as soon as I can....and I make sure that I smile at that child frequently while I am getting my son under control, or preventing him from hurting himself.....I put my son in a restraint and rock him back and forth...when I have him beginning to calm down I immediately explain what anxiety is and how my son is feeling at that moment and what I'm doing to help him be calm. If you are ever in a situation with your child, it would be much appreciated from my standpoint if you hugged your child at that very moment without turning your back and say with a smile..."his mommy is helping him to feel better" moms get judged pretty....

    Answer by FXmomTo3 at 10:55 AM on Dec. 8, 2010

  • harshly sometimes....but if I remain calm and smile through it, I recognize that other parents take notice and walk away with a better understanding.....but please know that for a parent like me, smiling takes a while to get there.....some parents are still struggling and a smile is hard to come even just a knowing smile from you makes all the difference in the world !

    AND I just want to thank you so much for posting this question !

    Answer by FXmomTo3 at 10:58 AM on Dec. 8, 2010