Explaining disabilities to children


My three nieces (who all are under the age of 5) are some of my favorite people in the world. Sure, they like to touch my joystick whenever I see them (arg), but that’s beside the point. Kids can be awesome with people with disabilities, especially once they get comfortable around you.

But don’t think that puts the kibosh on my nieces asking awkward questions. In fact, it’s been the opposite. Now that they know I’m cool, they will ask pretty much anything under the sun. And yes, it can get old, but I am in a position of power, as we all are. We can help change the world for the better by explaining disabilities to children. Check out these three videos of people with spinal cord injuries speaking to kids (with one guy even making a career out of it!).

The first is quite the a gem. It’s Christopher Reeve’s only appearance on Sesame Street post-injury, with his son Will (who’s 5 years old at the time) on as well. This 2:30 minute clip features Big Bird and his pal Zoe, and they talk to Chris about his injury (“You sure look different now from the last time you were on the show,” says Big Bird to Chris). They ask him how he can push his chair without the use of his arms. Chris explains and shows off his Sip ‘n Puff mechanism.

At the end of the video, Will tells Big Bird and Zoe that he and his dad are off to the library; Zoe decides to hitch a ride on Chris’s lap. The best quote in the video: “I hope I can keep up with you in that fancy wheelchair. I’m just a monster.” says Zoe. So cute, and I was really impressed with how Chris gently explained how was wheelchair works. Watch the clip

Remon Jordan, from Randolph, Massachusetts, is a quadriplegic injured 6 years ago.  He decided to start speaking to students at local elementary schools explaining disabilities to children and he’s become dang good at it (so good it in fact that it’s gotten him in the news). You know, not everyone is good at the disability awareness speaking thing just because they’re injured. I tried after my injury, but was embarrassingly uncomfortable (this most likely had to do with me being 17; not quite there yet mentally).

Remon however is in his thirties (has a daughter) and is a natural. In his video, he explains how his injury happened to a small group of kids who are eagerly listening. Explaining your injury story can always be tough, and kids have no filter. They’ll ask whatever comes to mind if you let them (which they totally do in this video). Yes, watching Remon deal their questions definitely hits home. View the video here

And our last video profiles an adorably attractive young Australian by the name of Lee Warn, a paraplegic. Lee is one of those fun souls who instantly connects with kids. After his injury, he too started speaking, explaining disabilities to children, and he became so good at it that he was offered a teaching position (or rather, the school asked him to go back to school and become a teacher so he could work for them). Lee could pretty much be the next Pee Wee Herman in a wheelchair. Sure he’s not as animated, but kids are drawn to him in the same way. Watch him read a book to a class of 6 and 7 year olds

I will not lie – it can be tough opening yourself up after a spinal cord injury and explaining disabilities to children. You feel ridiculously vulnerable (even though you know you shouldn’t lol). But Lee has figured it out, just like me (thanks to my nieces). Speaking to kids can be therapeutic, and dare I say invigorating? Sure, sometimes they ask some embarrassingly tough questions, but being around them can be more therapeutic than you realize.

Are you a fan of hanging out with kids post-injury or do you avoid them like plague? How do you explain disabilities to children?

Watch the videos!

Christopher Reeve talks about his wheelchair on Sesame Street

Remon Jordan speaking at elementary school explaining disabilities to children

Lee on Ability TV talking about how speaking with kids has introduced him to a new career

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