If you’ve read my post about our families Olympics obsession, Olympic Fever and our trip to London 2012 to see the Olympic Swimming Marathon, you’ll know how we’ve gone from being non-sport watchers, to heavily supporting Team GB and loving every second of the tv footage. So it was no surprise that today, with the start of the Paralympics, that our five year old daughter started asking questions. She wanted to know why the Olympics was starting again, and what was the difference between the Olympics and the Paralympics.
So how do you explain disability to a five year old? Especially when you aren’t somebody who has experienced disability? There’s a massive danger of explaining it inappropriately or incorrectly. If I use the wrong choice of words it could either lead to confusion, or unintentionally using terms that could be deemed offensive. Explaining disability is further complicated by a five year olds short attention span and their need to have things explained in simplistic terms that they will understand.
So right or wrong, these are the things I said to my five year old in attempt to explain disabilities to her. I really hope that I’ve explained this kindly and correctly. If I’ve made any major faux pas – please do tell me!!! Just remember I am defining a generalised view for a small child – not an older child or adult and am trying to keep it simple. I am also trying to keep war-talk to a minimum as I don’t want to frighten her.
- There are many different types of disability. Sometimes you can see a person’s disability, and other times you can’t see it.
- Some people have a disability that they are born with, some people have a disability because they have had an accident or been in the war, and some people have a disability because they have been poorly with a bad illness.
- One type of disability is that of wheelchair users. They could be in a wheelchair because there might be something wrong with their legs or their back; and sometimes they might not have any legs, might have one leg or might have smaller legs. Sometimes people are in wheelchairs because they are poorly. Mummy was in a wheelchair for a little while when mummy was little. (She knows I had cancer as a child).
- Sometimes people with no legs or only one leg, don’t go in a wheelchair. Sometimes they use special crutches and sometimes they have special new legs made for them.
- Some peoples’ disability is that their arms or hands don’t work properly or they might have only one arm, no arms or shorter arms.
- Another disability is of people who are sight impaired (If not explaining to a child I’d have used “visually impaired”). That means that they can’t see as well as you or sometimes can’t see at all.
- Other people are hearing impaired. That means they can’t hear as well as you or sometimes can’t hear at all.
- Sometimes people can have a poorly mind, which means that they think and learn differently to you.
I used the different channels showing Paralympic coverage to give her examples and show her, as I felt visual images would increase her understanding and make the learning process more interesting. So far we’ve watched Paralympic Swimming, Paralympic Cycling and Paralympic Wheelchair Basketball (all in one morning!).
I explained that it’s very important that if she meets somebody with a disability, she must treat them the same as everybody else she knows, and talk to them the same. I explained that people with disabilities are normal people with feelings. I also told her that the people competing in the Paralympics are very very talented, just like the people who were in the Olympics; and that we’d be watching it on tele every day and cheering for TEAM GB again.
I realise I’ve only scratched the surface of this, but when it comes down to it, it’s a very difficult topic to explain to such a small child, but she wants to know and wont give in until she understands… which I think she does now!
Please leave me a comment…
How do you think I did? Did I explain too much/too little?
What would you have said differently?
I don’t want to turn disability into a taboo subject, but have I made any major slip ups in my definition?
Are you watching the Paralympics too? I have people from 64 different countries reading my blog… Which country are you cheering on?