Disability: 3-5 minute child chat about an issue of social justice

(Please see my previous blogposts from December 17, 2017, and January 2, 2018 about chatting with your child or children about issues related to social justice).

AutismMonday, April 2nd 2018, is World Autism Awareness Day. It just so happens that we have a few parents in our lives that have children living on the autism spectrum.  Therefore, in honor of my nephew, my friends’ children, and all parents and children living with Autism, here is a 3-5 minute lesson on talking to your child about disabilities. For Victorine, Hayley, and Elspeth (who keeps me honest and in check).

Children can sometimes be cruel to one another. No matter how diverse our world is, children still are socialized to believe that there is only one way to be. Despite the medical and psychological research, out there some parents and children still hold a certain norm in their minds about an individual’s emotional, cognitive, and physical development. It is sad. It is inappropriate. Those beliefs about such norms are counterproductive to us living in a culturally competent diverse society. Not only that but such beliefs do not allow our children to experience people who are different than them.

I noticed that there is not much written for people who have friends or relatives with disabilities. There is a growing set of research and resource banks for parents with children who have disabilities, but not much for those of us who want to be supportive, inclusive, competent, and allies.

I am still learning. I ask a lot of questions. I make mistakes. I look up a lot of stuff. I ask my friends for assistance. You should too! The conversation about children who do not have the same physical, emotional, or cognitive abilities as my child has come up when we plan playdates, birthday parties, or are getting ready to go to any outing where other children may be present. As we are getting dressed, my part of the conversation goes something like this:

“Are you excited about the party/play date/museum/field trip today?”

“I know I loved parties/play dates/museums/field trips when I was your age.”

“I want you to please remember to be kind to all the other children present. You know how you like it when people are kind to you?”

“Can you also remember that there may be kids there who cannot run or do not run as fast as you do or who don’t like crowds or loud noises…can you think of something to make them more comfortable/feel included?”

Our son is o.k. about coming up with things like “help them on the ladder to the slide,” or “sit with them for a while if they want to sit.” However, he also needs some prompting. I add some suggestions to help him think about children who may be in a wheelchair or who may not be able to play the running or climbing games. We talk about not forcing kids to engage if they do not want to: “Ask your friend if they are o.k….tell them it is o.k. to sit down for a while if they want to…ask them if they want to do something else.”

Teaching a 7 y.o. to be observant of their friend’s feelings and movements is a challenge, but the more I do it the more I find he is slowly paying attention. He is still uncomfortable sometimes around children with disabilities, but much more comfortable than he was a year or two ago. Exposure. Conversation. Normalization.

We also talk about people who look different (maybe a child with Down syndrome or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). Recently, we began talking about disabilities you cannot see (ADD for examkple). I ask him what questions he has. I encourage him to ask me more questions as they come up. I have been known to go with my child to ask a parent of another child a question or two. After all, I do not know everything!

  1. As always, use age-level appropriate resources and language.
  2. Normalize the fact that ALL children (and adults) matter.
  3. Teach & Encourgae your child to be observant and respond appropriately.
  4. Encourage your child not to stare.
  5. Encourage them to ask questions.
  6. Begin to teach them person-first language (“My friend Nathan who is on the sutism spectrum/who lives with autism” vs “That autisitc kid”)
    1. Another example of person first language
  7. If your child is uncomfortable around children with a disability, do not force your child to play with them. Talk time later to help your child hear you say how important it is to be inclusive.

What ideas and helpful tips do you have?

HELPFUL LINKS AND BOOKS

  1. Two great blogs I found:
    1. http://kellehampton.com/2016/09/school-talk-introducing-disabilities-to-classrooms-and-friends.html
    2. http://www.kristenannjames.com/2013/11/18/talking-to-kids-about-disability-and-he-who-must-not-be-named/
  2. Autism Speaks https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/world-autism-awareness-day
  3. HollyRod Foundation http://www.hollyrod.org/

Books

  1. My brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete
  2. I see things differently: A first look at autism by Pat Thomas
  3. A friend like Simon by Kate Gaynot
  4. Since we’re friends: An autism picture book by Celeste Shally
  5. Don’t call me special: A first look at disability by Pat Thomas and Lesley Harker
  6. A rainbow of friends by P.K. Hallinan

 

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5 minute child chats about social justice

The other day I realized that it only takes 3-5 minutes to begin to teach our children about social justice and equity.  As a female social work educator of color raising a brown boy in the U.S. this is very important to me. But I also realized ALL parents can do this. And the way to do it is very simple. In the next few blog posts I will be sharing examples of how I have done this. Our son is very curious and is a keen observer. He asks lots of questons which provides opportunity for us to teach him about diverse populations, inequity, justice, acceptance, and social action. 

Stay tuned for specific lessons. But for now, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. listen to your child and answer their questions. Invite them to ask questions. Peak their curiosity. 

2. Don’t ignore them or brush them off. 

3. Don’t hush them. 

4. Don’t shy away from uncomfortable topics. 

5. Don’t be afraid to look up what you don’t know or refer to a friend. 

6. Keep it simple. Use a children’s book or story to help you. 

Honoring my mom: Day 5 of 75

I started to blog about my Sunday sermon (stay tuned…) and then I heard this story on NPR this morning:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/09/09/345297939/misty-copeland-on-broadening-beauty-and-being-black-in-ballet

My mom never uttered the words “only white people do that” nor “black folks don’t do that.” That is not the type of house in which we grew up. Those who have known me since elementary school will tell you our house was the household version of the United Nations.

We participated in any activity we wanted to – ice skating, Girl Scouts, swim, hiking, camping, tennis, gymnastics, whatever. My sister…well, her participation was half-hearted because she just didn’t really like most of those activities when we were younger (lol) it had nothing to do with her being Latina! No one in our home ever said we couldn’t do something because of our racial background. And if someone outside our home dared to say something of that manner, mommy set them straight immediately!

Encourage your children AND yourself to try anything that seems interesting to them and to you. Don’t get stuck by who you see or think you don’t see participating. You’ll miss out on a lot of fun.

Updating My Summer List of Fun

Inspired by a blogger who just started following me (always nice), I thought I’d post an update on my Taking Time off List:

  1. I have had the opportunity to sleep in only once. In fact, the toddler has had insomnia most of the summer and wakes up frequently during the night AND then has the audacity to wake up on time in the morning! Oh well…
  2. We have been eating lots of ice cream and Popsicles and taking walks by the Merrimack River AND playing in the park and at the playground often!
  3. We have not yet made it to the farms, but I’m hoping we’ll go later this month OR that while we’re in Atlanta we’ll get to the aquarium.
  4. No public spray parks, but plenty of time in the kiddie pool with friends!
  5. LOTS of mommy-time with friends and then plenty of mommy and kids time with friends also.
  6. Train ride on hold until October…
  7. WGBH Fun Fest and Lowell Folk Fest were a HUGE hit with the toddler. Now he thinks every weekend is a festival!
  8. Have yet to go see the ducks in Boston…
  9. Read a couple of new books with the toddler (no new books for mom or dad) and have piles of stuff to make our summer book…just piles right now…
  10. Sister will not be able to visit cuz like me, she’s sandwiched and taking care of grandma…but she is going to send me some tamales, which is a good 2nd place replacement.
  11. Unplanned:  Heading to Atlanta to check in on ailing mom, which is an adventure for the toddler to be on the plane and an opportunity for us to share that experience with him and for him to see grandpa whom he LOVES and granny who he thinks is his peer!
  12. Not necessarily fun but necessary: Potty-training…anyone have good tips?

Thoughtful Thursday (late edition): News Madness, Some Quick Thoughts

Image  WOW! Tuesday my head was spinning from so much news coming in so fast! I was watching 3-5 channels, on my Twitter feed and on Facebook trying to keep up with the Zimmerman trial, Aaron Hernanzez, DOMA, Nelson Mandela…! It was the same way during the chase of the 2 “Boston Marathon Bombing” suspects.  I was up at 1 a.m. watching news and reading Tweets to follow the madness.  I remember when I first became obsessed with news coverage – I was in college, when Magic Johnson was announcing he has AIDS.  Since that day I devoured news like my life depended on it (and sometimes it does).  I recall being a college student in California when the Rodney King police office trial was going on, and waiting anxiously for a verdict, which at that time, we could only watch on t.v., no Twitter, Facebook, or internet feeds or updates.  Those were sloooooow news dissemination days by today’s standards. Then I got to thinking….

Am I always a critical news consumer? No, but I should be. Especially since I am a mom. I teach my students to be critical consumers of knowledge, including news, and I should do better to do the same.

In order to lead by example & teach our children to be critical consumers of news, we must take the lead.  I have developed the following guidelines for myself (guidelines, not rules because sometimes I “break” them):

  1. Acknowledge that all news reporting has biases; even our favorite papers and/or reporters.
  2. Try not to react viscerally (especially in front of small children) to the breaking news of anything. Stories change quickly and the first report is not always the right report. Anyone remember CNN’s coverage of the Gore-Bush election???
  3. A tough one for me:  No “hard-hitting” news before work (only weather and traffic) and no news right before bed (switched from 11 p.m. to 6 p.m. broadcast).
  4. If I’m following a breaking story, I look for different perspectives. I have my favorite stations and I check out what my least favorite news reporters are saying also.  I cannot teach a class on social welfare policy and only present the CNN, MSNBC  perspective…I gotta get the FOX and others side too.
  5. I use Twitter and Facebook not as a primary news source, but as the quickest way to stay ahead of the t.v. folks. On Tuesday the Tweets were flying about Trayvonn Martin’s friend testimony. I got caught up in the madness! A day later more thoughtful responses to her came out….

There are all kinds of blogs and articles out there about children and news, here are my tips (remember I have a toddler who I do not feel is ready yet for news beyond weather & sports…):

  1. Discuss what your child about the news only what is age appropriate and what will affect his/her daily routine
  2. Add news reading to their reading list when he/she is old enough to discuss with you what he read

Other tips I found out there about critical news consumption:

  1. From PBS: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/news.html
  2. From Children Now: http://www.childrennow.org/index.php/learn/twk_news

A good place to start with kids:

  1. newsnick.com
  2. http://www.cnn.com/studentnews
  3. http://www.timeforkids.com/news

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Need to find a cause & cure

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The disease that quickly took my grandmother’s ability to care for herself and thus took her life; is very slowly and painfully killing my mommy. And all my degrees, years of experience, good intentions & prayers can’t do a thing to stop it.
It’s odd how 1 disease, not diagnosed until post-mortem can manifest itself so differently in different people. On one hand she knows something is happening but isn’t clear what. Tonight, what used to be one of the sharpest dressed women, spent an entire hour looking for a damn hat to wear to church. On the other hand she thinks it might be a nice idea to go back to teaching. Really? She can have my job (LOL).
Her poor husband is unsure most days what to do with her and himself. I think he’s doing all he can do because what else is there to do until she completely declines? It’s sad and difficult and I’m guiltily happy to live far away. Until…
The pure joy of her grandson is now slightly irritating ( he’s a terrible 2). Food is a painful necessity. Conversations are short and disjointed (sometimes funny or frustrating). 4 hours out of the house results in exhaustion and a shutting down or a semi-hyper/pseudo-psychotic fit.
Folks don’t like to talk about it cuz it’s sad and embarrassing. Which is why there is no cure or identified cause. Alzheimer’s needs a definitive cause and cure.
In 2013 I’ll be blogging weekly to bring awareness (and vent) and writing my Reps for research funding.
If it were your mom what would you do?

Do What Works Best for YOU!!!

This became my motto when I turned 30. Those people who have known me for a while know why 30 was significant and how that turning point in my life is the foundation for my strength, empowerment, resilience, perseverance, faith, and survival! The motto has especially new meaning for me as a mom. This is a slight rant mixed with unsolicited advice (but it is my blog after all)

 

When we found out we were going to be parents one of the things we discussed was the amount of unsolicited advice we would receive.  We agreed to handle it with grace and openness and take what we wanted to use and leave the rest! I was once one of those young, single, child-less people who had A LOT to say about how people handled their children – Silly me! It is very true (and I teach my students this in various ways) that you cannot really speak on an experience or situation unless you have lived it yourself. Hence my less than gracious attitude lately when people criticize our decisions as parents or say our child is misbehaved. This last one really burns me up!

For friends of parents:

  1. You are the friends, or auntie, or godmother…whatever your role…you are NOT the parent. Be supportive & understanding. Listen. Offer “advice” only when asked.
  2. Different strokes for different folks – everyone has her own values and norms and she uses those to guide her parenting & make decisions. You can either respect that or get out of the way. Don’t impose your values and norms on other people. That’s rude! J
  3. Judge if you want to, but be careful about the judgment you might endure yourself.
  4. Ask yourself “Why do I care so much about this issue that I feel the need to offer my advice?” Is the child being harmed? If not, then what you have to say may not matter that much.

For the parents:

  1. Take a DEEP breath.
  2. Be gracious and firm. Listen to what people say, it may be useful, you may learn something & if not smile and move on.
  3. Be careful not to do unto others what you don’t want done to you – don’t offer unsolicited advice or judge others’ parenting styles
  4. Immerse yourself in the love and joy of your own family – time flies quickly as I am learning – and in the end….all you got is yourself, your partner, & your child (children). Don’t spend time wallowing in anger over what someone said to you about your parenting style. Go back to #1 on this list.
  5. Empowerment isn’t just for individuals, it applies to couples & families as well.  Be an empowered family!

We’ve been under scrutiny for some of the decisions we make – many of which are small things that shouldn’t even matter to anyone else (for example: we try to stick to a schedule of eating & sleeping – it’s important to us – as older parents especially for our sanity & well-being and that of our child….and I shouldn’t even have to explain it, even in a blog!). Anyway…we just keep doing what we know is best for us, try to smile, breathe deeply, laugh about the advice & criticism at home, and keep loving each other and our Miracle Boy!

I challenge you to live YOUR best life, when you do so you have less time to worry about what other people are doing.

Thanks to our friends who let us to what works best for us!