Not many people are aware that in 1987, U.S. President Ronald Regan proclaimed the month of March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month*. With more and more disabled individuals merging into society throughout the 70s and 80s, Regan believed the public needed more recognition, knowledge, and understanding to help disabled individuals adapt in their new roles. While many schools have made tremendous strides in this area, Dr. Thomas Harford talks about some of the ways you can help your child at home understand what being disabled means to help advance his or her understanding and acceptance of disabilities of all types.
With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act* of 1990, Dr. Thomas Harford begins, our country finally began to take special care of our disabled citizens. Even so, he says, children will be children and will sometimes not know how to approach someone they view as different from themselves. Dr. Tom Harford says there are a few things he recommends to his clients to help your child learn about disabilities.
Dr. Tom Harford recommends we start by teaching our children about the different types of disabilities. For example, some disabilities aren’t obvious, like learning disabilities, he says, while others are readily apparent, such as physical disabilities. Talking to your child about some of the different types of disabilities can go a long way towards facilitating an understanding of the disabled person, he adds.
You might want to read books with your child about disabled children, Dr. Thomas Harford says. This will give you an opportunity to explain some of the terms that your child might not know. Some of the types of disabilities you might discuss include communication disorders, learning disorders, hearing disorders, or they could be physical disabilities like vision difficulties, vocal disorders, or having to use a wheelchair.
The main focus of your talk with your child should be how all people are different, and that it’s okay to be different. Dr. Thomas Harford also encourages discussion about bullying with your child and what it means to bully someone. Encourage your child to be the friend that reaches out and includes others. Teach them to be aware of when bullying is happening and encourage him or her to speak out about it to a trusted adult if they see it happening.
Allow your child to ask you questions. Children are naturally curious, Dr. Harford says, and questions are a good way to allow them a safe and comfortable place for what they want to know. Be sure to let them know the door is always open for questions down the road as well.
One of the methods of moving past awareness and into acceptance is by role playing. An example, Dr. Tom Harford says, is to have the child try to communicate an idea to you without being able to verbalize it. This allows your child to gain an understanding of just some of the difficulties a vocally disabled person has each day.
Dr. Thomas Harford says we need to also be aware of our own language and behaviors toward disabled people. How we talk about and to disabled people — our language and our actions — will be picked up by even the youngest child. Most of all, Dr. Thomas Harford says, by watching your actions and your intentions, your child will learn acceptance of people that are not exactly like him. “In the end, isn’t that something we’re all looking for?” he asks.
With over 25 years of management and teaching experience in both private and public higher education, Dr. Thomas Harford does academic advising at all levels. His company, Mind-Revise focuses on academic advising, learning outcomes assessment, academic support and learning initiatives, academic program design and development (online, hybrid and face-to-face), international partnerships, student life and alumni affairs, admissions, recruitment and marketing, and teaching. Contact Dr. Tom Harford today for a free consultation regarding your organization’s academic needs by visiting https://mind-revise.com/contact/.
Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month* – https://www.specialneedsalliance.org/blog/march-is-developmental-disabilities-awareness-month/
Americans with Disabilities Act* – https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/history/35th/1990s/ada.html