This is an opinion given by Justine Roberts who is the chief executive of the online parenting network Mumsnet. I happen to agree with Mrs. Roberts but it’s easier said than done.
Adults sometimes find it extremely difficult to know how they should best behave around people with disabilities, and I have firsthand experience of adults who struggle to find the right words to say. This may result in an awkward meeting or they may choose to ignore and avoid the person with disabilities rather than risk being embarrassed.
Children are usually much more accepting of disabilities. They are generally happy to engage in conversation and seem to find their own means of communication when conventional methods are difficult. I use the words ‘usually’ and ‘generally’ for unfortunately not all children find it easy to accept someone who is different in one way or another. Surely we have a responsibility to help our children to look past a disability and to see the person beneath.
We talk to children about tolerance and acceptance of people who are different, but we often refer to those differences being in skin colour, religion or nationality. Yet there are many children in our schools with autism, with ADHD, with hearing difficulties etc., and in the wider community there are people with more severe learning difficulties and physical and mental disabilities. Maybe we need to teach children not to judge and how to be more empathetic. Maybe then all of our children will not only accept people with disabilities but also be able to act and speak in an appropriate way that shows respect. Perhaps it’s time to widen our empathy education.