Thursday, October 6, 2011

Make a Difference for the Different

Your children are Addison's future.

One of my fears for Addison is for lack of acceptance as she grows older. Will her peers make fun of her? Will she have any friends? Will she be isolated socially? Will her feelings be constantly hurt by thoughtless comments or gawking strangers?

I was talking to a friend recently. She was telling me how one of her friends just had a baby- with only one arm. When her young daughter made a loud comment about how "if she had a baby with only one arm, she wouldn't hold it" in front of the new parents, my friend took this as an opportunity to educate her daughter.

That just because this little baby had only one arm- doesn't make him any less of a person. That just because something appeared to be different didn't mean that he isn't just like us. That just because she wasn't used to seeing a baby with only one arm didn't make the baby any less celebrated or special.

After that conversation her little girl warmed up to this little baby with one arm and by the end of their visit was totally in love with this precious bundle.

I smiled as I heard this story. How wonderful that this mom was teaching her daughter at a very early age about difference and acceptance. If I hadn't had a daughter with Down syndrome, no doubt I would have subconsciously trained my daughter to stare awkwardly and for all purposes look uncomfortable every time she was in the presence of someone different.

I started thinking about Addison's peers who right now are just emerging more as human beings and less as eating, pooping, sleeping lumps. I thought about those peers' parents and wondered how they're going to teach their children.

There are toy rules and food rules and polite rules....every toddler is being taught so many things by their parents. But are they being taught to be accepting? Are they being taught about differences and being "special"? Doesn't it start from early on when they notice a difference and loudly state their opinion "I wouldn't hold a baby with only one arm" The parent has a choice to awkwardly shrug it off and apologize to the new parents for the tactless comment.....OR to use the teachable moment to shape a young mind.

I'm so glad that I am blessed with such wonderful friends who go out of their way to make sure that their children see Addison as an accepted peer- a friend. Friends who continue to train their children about differences in this world and through doing so will make a HUGE impact on Addison's future.

Addison just wants to be treated like any other little girl- wear pretty things- do fun activities- have friends- converse about what's on her mind. She is more like your children than different.

Please make Addison's world more accepting by training your kids about difference instead of glossing over uncomfortable moments. Take your kids somewhere where they'll see someone "different" and have a discussion with them about what this means and how they should treat such a person (hint: as a person). Oftentimes the weirdness we feel around "special" people is because it's new- we don't know what to say or how to respond because we've never met someone like that before. Make it commonplace for your children. Help them see that it's a normal part of life- not something to be avoided at all costs.

Your kids are Addison's future. Please, please, please prepare them for life beyond the normal. Teach them how to react and respond and hopefully your children will make a positive impact on many through their loving acceptance.

It'll also make a difference in your child's life. More well rounded as a person, more accepting socially, a warmer heart, a desire to make a difference in someone's life even if it's just a smile...Learning to accept these differences graciously will enrich your child's life like nothing else.

Your children are Addison's world. She'll make it a better place for them if they'll make it better for her.

Make a difference for the different...one child at a time.

16 comments:

  1. Totally agree with you, especially being a school counselor! I had the wonderful opportunity yesterday to go into our special day classroom yesterday and work with a middle school girl who has downs syndrome. That moment, coupled with your post, is a reminder to me just how important your message is. I am constantly using teachable moments with my children, and do believe it makes a difference in their lives both for themselves and for others!

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  2. Beautifully and well written post. I have the same worries as you and I love how this post makes a person think!

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  3. What a wonderful post with such good ideas.

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  4. Well said Deanna! Excellent post :)

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  5. Love this. More than anything else, I hope I teach Millie to be a kind-hearted, loving girl who treats everyone with respect. I think there is nothing more important to teach kids.

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  6. Deanna, I wish you would consider having this published in the Essex weekly paper. It is so well put and so appropriate for us all. Thank you for being willing to be a voice for so many who feel the same way.

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  7. This was an excellent post.We as parents that are trying to raise our little ones for the Lord are teaching them that ALL children are fearfully and wonderfully made!!!:)We know that each little child is a gift.What a boring place this world would be if we all looked the same!!:)I think sometimes though as parents we may forget to remind our children to be kind.Until something embarrassing happens.My husband and I were just discussing this the other day as I was telling him that since I grew up with a cousin that had C.P I was always very comfortable around people in wheel chairs and other handicaps.I think that is kids sre able to see these people are special with the same needs as them it is a whole lot easier.Thanks for reminding us of how important it is to teach our children these things.

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  8. I meant to write if kids are able to see these kids as special with the same needs as them it is a whole lot easier.My lack of sleep must be catching up to me.:)Nikki

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  9. I love this post. Exactly what every Mum worries about. I had to smile to myself though, as my very gorgeous niece decided only last week, to yell across the fence to her next door neighbour (who happens to be her best friend), "Guess what, Flynn has Down Sydnrome" (Flynn is my 4 year old). This was said with such incredible love and pride, that it would have been easy for her Mum not to talk about it with her. Instead she sat down and spoke with her about how to talk about Down Syndrome, and what types of questions her friends might ask her about Flynn so that she was informed and felt empowered about the term. I can only hope there is a whole bunch of littlies out there with Mum's as willing to teach their children so that our childrens' futures are full of friendships.

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  10. You are so right. It is our job as parents to teach our children to respect,accept, and be kind to others. My boys are grown now,but I have always told them that when other kids are teased or bullied, that these are the things they pack heir bags with and carry around with them the rest of their lives. To not stand up for someone being treated unkindly is the same thing as being unkind. It all starts with us as parents. We have to show and teach our children that we are all much,much more alike than we are different.

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  11. beautifully stated.

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  12. I think about this a lot now that we are taking Landon to school and we are around LOTS of other kids. I'm grateful they get to see Sutter everyday (the kids and the parents) and see what he can do and that he is just like other kids. I hope that as the kids get older if they have questions they will ask or that the parents will ask me what to tell them...it's our job and the other parents job to teach acceptance.

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  13. That's the exact reason I chose to write on autism for the '31 days' challenge. I want to educate those around me about what it is (for us) and how to understand and deal with it. This was an incredible post!
    http://thebossymom.com/2011/10/31-days-toward-understanding-autism-day-1/

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  14. My daughter has observing that Isabella is seeing herself as being treated differently by her peers (she has ASD but is verbal). At the same time, identical twins are in her class, dressed identically and Bells says, "I don't like that they are the same!" There is a learning moment there, too.

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  15. This is the exact reason i took on my daughters kindergarten teacher and the school administration when they tried to move her from a "typical" classroom to the special needs room for some behavorial issues the first week (which by the way resolved by day 10)- kids in kindergarten are drawn to "special". The teacher says she is amazed at how protective they are of her & how they want to play with her and even let her win games they make up!! Her teacher is teaching acceptance every day and I'm so grateful!

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