During all these years raising not only one, but two kids with Down syndrome, I have heard the funniest and most curious comments coming out from the mouths of my children´s cousins, classmates and neighbors.
First of all, I would never judge them or get mad at them or their parents. In fact, the opposite is true; I’ve learned through the years to treasure these conversations as a celebration of diversity. When they ask questions about kids with special needs, children are being honest and curious – they don’t know how else to be. By asking questions and getting straight answers, they learn that being different is normal and isn’t something to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
Here are some of my favorite conversations with typical kids:
On a visit to Emir´s classroom:
Emir´s classmate: Mrs. Tardio?
Me: Yes, honey?
Emir´s classmate: Is it because you are from another country that Emir talks so funny?
Me: Well, I guess it´s because he has Down syndrome
Emir´s classmate: How far is that from America?
At the park with some neighbor kids:
Smiley boy: Are they Chinese?
Mom: Why, because of the shape or their eyes?
Smiley boy: No, because I can´t understand them.
Mom: Don´t worry! You will, soon!
Smiley boy: Okay!
At the grocery store:
Emir´s friend: Hi Emir
Emir: Hi you!
Smiles from mommy to mommy
Emir´s friend: I help Emir with his school work
Me: Really? Thanks a lot!
Emir´s friend: Yes, I like him, but he isn´t as good as I am doing letters or shapes
Emir´s friend: But everybody is different, right mom?
Friend´s mom: Right!
At our family reunion (last one we had a year ago)
Ayelén´s cousin: When is Ayelén going to start talking?
Me: She does it already, but she needs more time so you can understand what she´s saying
Ayelén´s cousin: So if I keep talking to her, is she going to learn sooner?
Me: Yes, she will! Thank you!
Ayelén´s cousin: Can I move in with her, so I can help more?
Me: Ask your mommy first!
I’ve had tons of conversations like these – interesting comments and questions from young children, all of them sincere and realistic. I love them not for the only fact that they are not scared to point out differences, but they are thirsty for to learn and understand what those differences are about.
Many times after having one of these conversations, or others that I admit I am not ready to share yet; I have felt relieved and happier.
Being different is as simple as
- Being misunderstood sometimes by the logic of human senses, but understood by the universal language of love
- Being cheered and encouraged sometimes, and other times being ignored or pointed at
When raising children with special needs, one of the most important things to remember is to listen to others, especially children, when they have questions.
Be open about your children’s abilities and differences, rather than trying to hide or pretend they are the same as everyone else. Yes, we are all more alike than different, but we were not born to look like anyone else. We are here to give our best and be proud of who we are.
I love that other children are the ones who never say something just to make you feel better, nor to hurt your heart. They are the most honest among us – the ones who don´t have limitations talking, asking and discovering that being different is “normal.”
In the end, don´t we all have special needs and differences, in our own special ways?