Month: March 2023

Raising Inclusive Kids: 7 Tips for Fostering Acceptance of Medical Conditions and Disabilities

Raising Inclusive Kids: 7 Tips for Fostering Acceptance of Medical Conditions and Disabilities

As a clinical nutritionist working with people with various medical conditions and disabilities, I have seen first-hand the impact that acceptance and understanding can have on individuals and their families. It is important to teach our children about acceptance of medical conditions and disabilities from a young age. Not only does it promote kindness and empathy, but it also helps to create a more inclusive society.

Here are some tips for parents and caregivers to help foster acceptance of medical conditions and disabilities among children:

Teach Empathy: Teaching children to put themselves in someone else’s shoes can go a long way in helping them understand the challenges that individuals with medical conditions or disabilities face. Encourage your child to ask questions and learn more about a condition or disability. Explain how the condition may impact the person’s life and how they may need to adapt to certain situations.

Be Positive: Focus on the person’s abilities rather than their limitations. It is important to highlight the positive aspects of a person’s character, rather than just their condition or disability. For example, if a child has a friend with Down Syndrome, talk about their unique talents and strengths rather than just their condition.

Model Acceptance: Children learn by example, so it is important for parents and caregivers to model acceptance of people with medical conditions and disabilities. Talk to your child about how everyone is different, and that these differences should be celebrated, not judged. Make sure to use appropriate language and avoid using derogatory terms.

Normalize Medical Conditions and Disabilities: Make sure your child understands that medical conditions and disabilities are a normal part of life. Use age-appropriate language to explain different conditions, and encourage your child to ask questions. Make sure to emphasize that everyone deserves respect and kindness, regardless of their condition or disability.

Teach Inclusion: Encourage your child to include everyone in their activities and social interactions. Teach them that everyone has something valuable to contribute and that everyone deserves to be included and valued.

Encourage Questions: Children are naturally curious, and it is important to encourage them to ask questions about medical conditions and disabilities. It is okay if they do not understand something, as long as they are willing to learn. Encourage them to ask questions respectfully and politely, without making assumptions or judgments.

Avoid Hurtful Language: Hurtful words such as “strange”, “weird”, or “gross” should never be used when talking about people with medical conditions or disabilities. Not only are these words insensitive, but they can also be hurtful and damaging. Instead, use appropriate language that emphasizes respect and kindness.

For any parent or teacher looking to start a conversation around this important message of inclusivity and understanding when it comes to medical conditions and disabilities, I would highly recommend reading “Meeting Exceptional Friends” written by Lindsey Larson, an OT and homeschooling mom of 2. In her children’s book, Lindsey does a lovely job of illustrating the importance of empathy, kindness, and understanding in building relationships with children having various visible and non-visible disabilities.

In conclusion, teaching acceptance of medical conditions and disabilities to children is critical in creating a more inclusive and empathetic society. As a clinical nutritionist, I have seen the impact that acceptance and understanding can have on individuals with medical conditions and disabilities. By teaching empathy, being positive, modelling acceptance, normalizing medical conditions and disabilities, and teaching inclusion, we can help our children become more accepting and inclusive of everyone, regardless of their differences. Let us all work together to create a world where everyone is valued and respected, regardless of their medical condition or disability.

Until next time,

Kalifa Rodriguez M.Sc., RD, CBS

Author of Eating These Foods Makes Me…