Living As a Disabled Auntie
My four year old nephew has grown up with me; a disabled auntie. The way I’ve approached talking about disabilities to him has changed as he’s aged. His understanding of many different conditions has increased and he’s grown into an incredible disability aware little man.
For a disabled child, growing up being the only one to roll into class on wheels or to have a birthmark on your skin can lead to a sense of isolation and low self esteem. Nearly 20 years ago when I first attended Primary School there was very little representation of disabled people reflected in books, on TV and through toys. Nowadays, I think movements like #ToyLikeMe are starting to change this and make disabilities more ‘normal’. It’s just as important for children to be accepting of people with disabilities of all ages.
I got so excited when I saw that ‘Peppa Pig’ has a new character in a wheelchair. My nephew’s reaction however was ‘Auntie Kate, it’s not that big of a deal’.
In 2015, Rebecca Atkinson noticed the lack of positive disability representation in children’s toys. She called on the global toy industry to start positively representing 150 million children with disability or differences worldwide. #ToyLikeMe is a creative collective which now celebrates this and has partners such as Lego, Barbie and Playmobil. Toys replicate many disabilities and have aids such as wheelchairs, prosthetics and even cochlear implants.
Talking to Children About Disabilities
Children are curious and how we react to this curiosity shapes how they will respond to future situations. Here are my top five tips of how to approach this type of conversation with a child:
- Avoid derogatory terms and discourage bullying behaviours.
- Take a lead on the situation if your child is staring by giving them a short explanation of the condition to help them understand.
- Answer the ‘What’s wrong with them?’ question and also highlight similarities.
- Teach awareness and sensitivity by finding out more on conditions in books or online.
- Encourage them to have friendships and reach out to those with disabilities.
Has The Way Children Approach Disability Changed?
I got so excited when I saw that ‘Peppa Pig’ has a new character in a wheelchair. My nephew’s reaction however was ‘Auntie Kate, it’s not that big of a deal’. And that’s exactly how it should be. With more easily accessible tools which include those with disabilities becoming an everyday occurrence, I think this generation is becoming more disability aware. And I hope, with a little extra guidance, we can nurture this and make it even better.
Written by resident blogger, Kate Stanforth.