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Explaining handicaps to kids?

DD questioned wheelchairs before and the easiest, most understandable, nonoffensive way I could think to explain it was that some people have legs that don't work and some people have bodies that don't work like most other people's so they need a wheelchair to help them get around. She took it and understood. Now I still can't think of a beter I could have said that. But today while shopping, she pointed and said very loudly (a normal voice for her but loud for adults) "Look, Mommy. He has a wheelchair cause his legs don't work." I'm her mom so *I* understood that this was like her pointing out any other new thing she learned and explaining it. But when she actually said it out loud, I immediately felt worry of hurting someone's feelings. How are parents supposed to "pre-manage" this? Obviously DD wasn't trying to be rude but just her noticing and being so naturally loud could've come off that way. Could I have explained it any better? I just immediately asked her to lower her voice. I didn't want her to feel like she was in trouble cause she didn't mean to do anything wrong.

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Asked by jus1jess at 5:57 PM on Jan. 17, 2011 in General Parenting

Level 14 (1,801 Credits)
Answers (6)
  • I think you explained it correctly; I'm assuming your DD is pretty young, it's natural for her to point out something like that since her information is "new." When she gets a little older she may understand not talking about people's handicaps.

    Answer by Scuba at 6:22 PM on Jan. 17, 2011

  • I think you explained it well enough and children have a natural curiosity when they realize that people are different. Now that she's seen it and understands it better, maybe explain to her that pointing or saying anything isn't nice to do, but let her acknowledge it by letting her whispering in your ear when she sees someone handicapped next time.

    Answer by gumby11883 at 6:39 PM on Jan. 17, 2011

  • I don't know how old DD is, but if she's old enough- perhaps recall (casually) that day. You might say, "Remember what I told you about WHY that child/man/lady used a wheelchair ? Well, if we see someone that does things differently or looks different than we do --we don't usually talk about it -IN FRONT of them- UNLESS THEY talk about it FIRST. Sometimes they don't want people POINTING at them and talking about their Differences Out Loud. Besides using a wheelchair-- maybe they are just like you and me (Grandma/ Bobby) in every other way! Maybe next time we could just give them a big smile- and then- if you have questions --we can talk about the questions a few minutes later when we're more alone . Do you think that might be a better idea? "

    Answer by gram22 at 6:42 PM on Jan. 17, 2011

  • Do you know someone that is handicapped that she could talk to? I think she is just proud that she knew what was going on, and what she said is much better than " mom what's wrong with that guy over there?" I can't imagine a person in a wheel chair having a problem with what she said.

    Answer by mommawhite08 at 2:31 AM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • At the moment, no. We just moved states and are cooped up by snow for the winter. So the only handicap people she sees are strangers passing by while we're out. She did say it in her usual "I learned about that earlier!" proud way. I guess I was just scared that someone still might feel hurt no matter how understandable the situation was. It caught me so off guard that I couldn't even look up to see if anyone reacted.

    Comment by jus1jess (original poster) at 9:43 AM on Jan. 18, 2011

  • Hi, I think you did the right thing to explain to her. Her saying it out loud was just her way of confirming what you had told her. I'm deaf/blind and a wheelchair user and although I can't tell directly if a child says or asks something I know from experience and communicating with other wheelchair users that generally we prefer a child's direct approach. If she sees someone in a wheelchair or with another disability it's often better to approach the person and ask if she can speak to them. I personally prefer it to the adult "oh you poor thing whatever happened to you?" kind of comment. How old is your dd? If there's anything she wants to ask about people with disabilities feel free to ask me.

    Answer by Karro at 4:18 PM on Feb. 9, 2011

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