Sunday, July 22, 2012

Talking to Kids About Disability

I went to visit my cousin today, and ended up spending some time with her little kids, who are 5 and 3 years old. They were showing me around their rooms and the 3-year-old took out an especially prized toy to demonstrate: a cylinder that strobed in different colors when turned on.

I am sensitive to light and avoid flashing lights as they cause me to feel sensory overload. My reaction when confronted with a toddler holding a strobing stick is apparently to screw my eyes shut, turn my back to him, and say "Turn it off! It hurts!"

And apparently, if one communicates to a toddler that a particlar experience is aversive, they will immediately engage in a giggling attempt to trick you into having that experience again.

"Turn it off!"
"Okay, off."
"You can look now, he turned it off!"
"No, don't turn it back on!"

Cue aforementioned giggling. We went a couple rounds like this before I took the toy from the 3-year-old and hid it on a high shelf.

So like, it's difficult to think clearly while being tortured by a couple of preschoolers, but I later realized that this could have been a good moment to teach them some things about disability. Maybe I could have said something like "I totally understand that it's fun to try to bother people sometimes, but flashing lights hurt me a lot, they don't just bother me. I'm very sensitive and to me, seeing a flashing light is like being hit in the face."

Would this have worked?

It's difficult to know how to explain disability to kids in a way that makes sense to them. I am especially daunted because I have an "invisible disability," so I can't show it to small children. I could explain to them where my disability comes from, but I'm not sure they know what a brain is.

Do any of you have experiences explaining your disability to small children? How did it go? Any tips?

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