Let kids learn that we are not so different after all

Angela_writing_for ODs_1

Recently, for World Disability Day on 3rd December, I took part on a panel about friendships for young people with disabilities organised by Malta’s CRPD (Commission for People with Disabilities), University of Malta and Opening Doors. One thing I learnt from this panel is that it is important to teach children about disabilities so that they can grow up in an inclusive environment where they can accept everyone.

I want to share a story about something that I experienced. Last year I got an Erasmus Mobility placement through MCAST that I spent in London.  I volunteered at an inclusive theatre called Chickenshed ( where I worked in the performance for children programme called Tales from the Shed.  These shows were lively and very interactive as the performers and audience share the same space within an inclusive environment. Each performance was really fun because there would be puppets, interactive and educational games, singing and dancing. What I loved best about this theatre was that it catered for everyone from different backgrounds, skin colours, ethnic groups and disabilities.

The team I worked with was a mix of non-abled and abled performers and they created a really great family environment. They all each went out of their way for every performance we did to interact with the audience. Whenever there was someone in the audience who had their birthday  we would always celebrate it at the end of the performance.

In one performance I was in, it was the birthday of someone in the audience. It was a girl who was on a wheelchair who had Cerebral Palsy. We all got together both performers and the audience to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to her. A little boy who was in the audience turned to me and asked me if I could put him on her lap so that he could wish her ‘Happy Birthday’.  When I did, he just flung his arms around her neck in a huge bear hug which I found really special and it also showed me that the child didn’t even seem to notice that she was on a wheelchair.  Looking back now, I think that it was because this child had been coming to Tales for quite some time so that he was used to be in an inclusive environment. This is the reason why we need to give kids the chance to learn from an early age about disabilities. If this child can do this then I think that it is an example for other kids to do the same.

I did some research and found some tips how to teach little kids about disabilities:

  1. Identify differences and similarities
  2. Balance curiosity and respect
  3. Teach you child to be kind
  4. It’s ok to notice
  5. Emphasising what they have in common with each other
  6. Teach your child that everyone is different
  7. Remind your child that everyone wants to have friends
  8. In an inclusive classroom child will gain important qualities that can be learnt through experiences.
  9. Inclusion can teach children of all ability’s important life skills.

My take home message for readers today is that we should teach children from an early age to accept everyone and to treat everyone the same.

Here are some sites from where I got these tips from, if you are interested you can check them out here: