Don’t Just Teach Your Kids Special Needs Awareness, Teach Kindness

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“Take a moment to ponder the phrase, ‘She’s simple.’ How do you define the word simple? What images come to mind when you think of this word?

The definition of the word simple includes the following keywords and phrases: basic, plain, uncomplicated, easily understood or done, presenting no difficulty.

Now, try to use simple in a sentence. Below are some examples:

‘We had a simple dinner last night, no fuss.’ ‘I want to keep our wedding simple, with no fuss and minimal decorations.’ ‘I’m wearing a simple white blouse for dinner.’ ‘My test was pretty simple and easy, so my studying paid off.’

These are harmless sentences, right? 

Now, think about the word simple in this next sentence:

‘Oh, she’s simple, so she doesn’t get it.’

How does that make you feel? If you’re not sure how it makes you feel, imagine someone saying that about someone you love. In particular, imagine it is someone you love with special needs.

That has a different connotation, doesn’t it?

It has a negative emotion at the basis of that statement. Is it harmless? No. Does it have long lasting implications? Absolutely. 

This is something that was said about my own daughter with special needs among many other things.

Let’s talk about it.

In this world of ‘awareness’ that we live in, we are kidding ourselves if we think that awareness equates to acceptance. Spoiler alert—it doesn’t. Awareness is a term I’m sure everyone has heard. But, what exactly does it mean?

It seems that all it really means is that people are aware that autism or people with special needs exist. Of those people, the majority are merely tolerant. A lot are not. The remaining few understand acceptance—undeniable 100% acceptance.

They may be a parent, family member, or friend of an individual with special needs. Or perhaps they are just a decent human being who understands that no two people on this Earth are alike. And maybe, just maybe, they decide to be decent, accepting, and caring to every single person they meet. 

Why should a diagnosis matter? Well, so many diagnoses are silent. Unseen. A child may seem ‘normal’ to you, but you have no idea that they struggle with unforeseen issues. 

‘She’s simple.’

Special needs children and adults are not simple, but profound individuals. They are capable of far more than you could ever imagine, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Non-verbal doesn’t mean they can’t communicate. Limited communication doesn’t mean they don’t understand. And high functioning speech doesn’t mean that they don’t have feelings. 

It would be a wonderful world if we all understood the many dynamic ways the brain and human body function—to understand why people are who they are and the way they are. However, we couldn’t possibly understand because the sea of individuality is vast and deep, each wave a ripple effect of how we treat one another.

We will never fully comprehend the intricacies of every person with special needs, but we need to educate ourselves as much as we can.

Part of being accepting is also being kind.

For the record, ignorance isn’t bliss. Ignorance isn’t a pass to say what you want and have no concern about the ramifications. Words matter. Actions matter. Thoughts matter. Your heart matters. Make it matter.

Make it matter to a child who has overcome more than you will ever comprehend. Make it matter for the parent who feels overwhelmed and all alone. Make it matter for the mom who cries over her child. Make it matter for the Dad who fears for his child’s safety. Make it matter for the people who try to make a difference and try to understand. 

I don’t care if you are a man who loves a man. I don’t care if you’re a woman who loves a woman. I don’t care if you have special needs. I don’t care what color you are. No matter who you are, I promise I will always try my best to be kind.

It’s simple.

As a special needs parent, I care if you are judgmental. I care if you are biased. I care if you are ignorant. I care if you are mean. I care if you choose to never care. But I will still be kind to you. Not because it’s easy, but for the simple fact that it’s right. 

Here are some ways to practices kindness towards kids with special needs in everyday life:

See a child spinning in circles? Don’t stare.

See a kid who is overly clumsy? Don’t laugh.

See a child covering their ears in panic over a car horn? Don’t sneer.

See a ‘big kid’ wearing a diaper? Mind your business.

See a kid hitting themselves over and over? Don’t roll your eyes.

See a mom desperately trying to stop her child from having a meltdown? Don’t try to ‘teach’ her how to parent better.

See a kid freaking out over something mundane? Offer love. 

Teach your children to be kind. Teach your children about special needs and differences in people and cultures. Teach them to be kind.

It’s simple. 

It’s so, so simple. 

Simply be kind to everyone. Simply educate not only your brain, but your heart. Simply offer love, instead of judgement.

Be kind. 

It really is so simple. In fact, it is simplicity at its finest.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Becca Smith on behalf of Michelle Stanfield. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories. 

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