Red Ribbon Week is usually our week at MHS to emphasize healthy choices. The month of October is Disabilities Awareness Month, so for RRW 2021 we are emphasizing the healthy and positive choice of practicing empathy, particularly with people that have a disability. Practicing empathy allows us to consider others' feelings, as well as understanding our own feelings and vocalizing them. Better understanding each other allows more tolerance and acceptance.
This is a summary of the article link above about having empathy for persons with a disability:
"Whether it's a classmate who is on the autism spectrum or a loved one with muscular dystrophy, your child probably has someone in her life with a disability that she might have questions about. No matter what the situation, it's important to be prepared and to address your child's curiosity about disabilities as openly and honestly as you can. The following tips can help you be prepared to talk to your child about people with disabilities when she comes to you for answers.
1. It's okay to notice: A short and matter-of-fact description will answer your child's questions while showing her that the person has nothing to be ashamed of. Try to keep your explanations positive. For example, explain that hearing aids help others hear and wheelchairs help others move around, instead of using a negative connotation (he can't hear, she can't walk, etc.)
2. Teach Understanding and Empathy. Children are all similar in many ways, and they are also all different in their own ways. Instead of simply telling your child that a person with a disability can't do something, talk about that individual's strengths, too. Teach your child to look for strengths instead of just focusing on weaknesses.
3. Use Respectful Terminology. Words matter, so it's important not to use terminology that would make someone feel left out, or imply that they are "less than" anyone else. Avoid using derogatory terms like and don't use a disability as a way to describe an individual. For example, instead of saying "autistic child," it's better to say "a child on the autism spectrum."
This tip sheet from Mobility International USA is a good resource to learn what terminology to use when describing somebody's disability.
4. Emphasize Similarities. It's important that your child learns that someone with a disability is still the same in a lot of ways — he still has feelings, likes to have fun, loves his family, and has a favorite sport.
5. Address and Condemn Bullying. Children with disabilities are easy targets, and are more prone to bullying from other children, and even adults. Talk to your child about why intentionally hurting another child's feelings is wrong, and teach her to apologize when she has done that. It's important for your child to know that anyone, even someone who looks or acts different, has feelings just like she does, and deserves to be treated nicely and with respect.
Go over this "Bullying Stops Here" printable pledge, and have your child sign it as a pledge that she won't bully others, and will try to help if she sees someone else doing it.
6. Treat Their Devices with Respect. Teach your child to treat medical devices, such as canes, wheelchairs, and service dogs, with respect. Make sure she understands that the devices are there to help the person who needs them, and that they are not toys."