A reason your kids need you to talk to them about their disability

Sometimes parents avoid talking to disabled kids about disability because they don’t want to make them feel different.

The thing is, it’s not actually possible to prevent your child from noticing that they are different. They will notice that they aren’t just like all the other kids. Partly because it’s obvious. Kids compare themselves to other kids, and to adults that they observe. Disability is as noticeable as the fact that some people are fat, female, tall, short, black, white, or whatever else. Kids notice differences. They will notice this difference too. And that’s ok.

They will notice that you are willing to talk about some differences, but not others. If you refuse to talk about disability, they will still know that they are different. They will just learn that you consider the difference unspeakable.

They will also notice what other people think about them and their disability.

People will stare at your child and make disparaging remarks. People will call them the r-word, and every other disability slur. They will say “special” and “special needs” with a sneer. They will make fun of your child for not being able to do things. They will say, or imply, that they would be able to do them if they’d just try harder.

You can stop some people from doing this to your child (and you should), but you can’t stop them from ever encountering it. They will probably encounter it every day. They will know that they are different from other people, and our culture will teach them incredibly destructive things about what that means.

You can’t stop your child from hearing what our culture thinks of disability — and if you don’t talk about disability yourself, your child will believe that you agree with it.

If you don’t talk to your child about their disability, the only words they will have for themselves are slurs they hear other people call them. You can give them better words, and better information.

If you don’t talk to your child about their disability, they will end up with a lot of misinformation about what their difference means. If you talk to them, you can tell them the truth.

tl;dr Refusing to talk to kids about disability doesn’t protect them from feeling different. It just prevents them from getting accurate information about what their disability is and what their difference means. When kids who don’t know the truth about their disability face hate, they have little-to-no protection against internalizing it.