I was visiting my ophthalmologist today in the morning when I came across this incident. In the waiting area, one mum was sitting there with her child (son) of about 8 to 10 years old who was evidently in the spectrum of autism. The kid was busy colouring a book of mandala designs for mindfulness and was doing a great job at it. He was totally oblivious of the world around him.
However, the world around was not so oblivious of him. I for one was enjoying his skilful ‘swoosh swoosh’ movements of the color pencils. Staring at his art work seemed so peaceful and therapeutic. My trance was only broken when I heard the middle aged woman sitting next to me say to her teen aged daughter, “ see that kid, never approach such kids with weird faces, they are abnormal”. Both I and her teen daughter were aghast. I gave the woman the foulest look possible and her own kid went ballistic at her in whispers.
That woman stopped her nonsense after getting an earful from her daughter, but it got me thinking that why we are so hard wired to insult or abuse anyone who is different? Are we so scared of “different” that we have blow out their candles so as to make sure ours burn brighter?
Back tracking to today’s incident, I at least felt relieved that the teen had the dignity to say the right thing.
One of my friends has a child who has special needs. Agreed she is not like other children, but it is heartbreaking to hear other kids make fun of her when they are all in the playground. Kids must be taught how to be tolerant of others and accept an individual with all their differences.
Here are some of the things that help the parents teach acceptance to their kids:
Explaining the Need – Kids need to understand that no two people born are exactly alike; they have their differences, strengths, weaknesses and needs. Differently abled characteristic is merely a part of the said child. He/she is more than that. Everyone needs respect, love and friends to hang with.
Communicating with the parents – Most parents with a special needs child would rather you approach them with genuine questions to help his classmates interact with him? In case he is invited to a party, what all preparation would he need to be comfortable?
Being a bully is NOT ok – Bullying is a consistent issue for both children and parents. If someone is getting bullied for his/her difference or needs and the bystanders are silent then the bullying will not go away all by itself. Teaching ourselves and children to be proactive bystanders is imperative. If my child sees that a classmate with special needs is ridiculed in school for being different, then my child should reach out and lend a helping hand to the kid in need. If that does not stop the bullying then my child will inform us or some Teacher or the Dean to make sure that the bullies are reprimanded for their actions.
Keeping it simple – Children are not dumb, they are born with intrinsic kindness, and it is the environment that teaches them hatred, fear, disgust and all other negative emotions. We need to tell our kids that noticing the difference and asking legitimate questions is welcome, but making fun and disrespecting them is not cool.
Image courtesy – http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/
- Sohini Maitra
- November 6, 2017
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