“If you laugh at a different child, he will laugh with you too, because his innocence surpasses your ignorance.” Teach your child to accept “different” people.
Almost more than twenty years ago, as a beginning teacher, I had the privilege of serving a group of first grade elementary schools; It was a wonderful group, one of the best I have ever had. We played, we laughed a lot, and the children learned to read, to add, to subtract and all that you learn when you are six years old.
Educating a child with a physical disability
This group is still very meaningful to me because it was the first time that I was in charge of a little boy with an intellectual disability (who was called “mental retardation”) among my students. On the third day of school, very early and before the group arrived, the mother of one of my little ones appeared in the classroom and very upset asked me to remove the child with a disability from the group (whom in this article I will call Juanito) .
The lady argued vehemently that it was unhealthy for such young students to be exposed to Juanito’s “bad example”, as it was unpleasant to look at and could impress them and cause some kind of trauma. I still remember listening to her and not being able to understand what she was saying; I tried to explain to her how good it would be to have Juanito in the living room, but the lady insisted, until finally she said: “My son is afraid of different people” and energetically finished, warning me that if I did not remove Juanito she would remove her son from school and she left, literally leaving me with the word in my mouth, thinking that it was clear that she did not know how to live with people with different abilities.
The gift of finding your own way, and showing it to others
That same morning I spoke with my director and told her about the incident, and I even expressed my own fear of not being prepared to attend and educate Juanito; she, an older woman, only said: “Don’t worry, Juanito will show us the way, it’s always like that with children like him.”
My first fifteen days were quite exhausting because I wanted to do everything by myself, until one day, at recess time, the director said to me: “Look at Juanito, what are you seeing?” He, in his special chair, was under the tree where I had left him; he saw the children running, he smiled when he saw them pass and he waved his hands as if to say: “Hey! I’m here! I also want to play. So at the end of recess, I dedicated myself to talking with my children. Although I had already told you about the special condition of our partner, I had never taken the time to answer their questions, they had so many! And then I introduced them: each one passed in front of Juanito, to whom they shook hands while they told him their name.
Later, everything began to flow easily: they organized among themselves to take him to “run” or to play soccer; At the beginning they left him in goal and Juanito advanced so much that he became the top scorer of the group, as they put the ball on his lap and carried it on their shoulders to score the goal. On the days we made crafts, Juanito would leave the painted room and more than once his chair changed color. Juanito became the most popular child and almost every week he received an invitation to a children’s party, even from children who were not in his group. The year ended, the mother who had claimed me did not withdraw his son, because, as a matter of fate, Juanito was his child’s best friend.
The love and innocence of disabled children make us more human
The children continued to advance and Juanito stayed in first grade for twelve more years. His old companions were now teenagers and, together with their mothers, they returned from time to time to visit the school and Juanito. I also left school and only returned the day they told me that Juanito had died. His fragile body finally had a rest. On the day of his funeral there were hundreds of people and among them, many of my dear children.
I could tell you about everything I experienced for hours, but I just want to share with you my most valuable learning when working with such special children: do not be afraid of them and never transmit fear, rejection or prejudice against them to your children. If you give yourself the opportunity to get closer to a little “different” or to his parents, you will discover a world full of love, innocence, effort and sacrifice. And you don’t want to deprive your child of that experience that will make their life so much sweeter and more humane.
If you wish, here you can
readHow can I help my child with an emotional disability succeed in school?