Did you know that December 3rd was the International Day of Persons with Disabilities? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know. I have been a school psychologist and have worked with individuals with disabilities for 13 years and have never heard of it until today when I ran across a YouTube video in my news feed on Facebook that piqued my interest. If you haven’t seen this one yet, please take a few minutes to view this amazing and touching video.
Needless to say, since I was not aware of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I have not been recognizing nor promoting it. So, I thought I would take the opportunity to do so now, albeit a few days late. After watching the video, I did a little research and discovered that the annual observance of this day was enacted in 1992 by the UN. To learn more about the UN’s promotion and advancement of rights for and well-being of persons with disabilities, check out their website at http://www.un.org/disabilities/default.asp?id=17 .
After watching this video, it made me think about opportunities we have as parents to teach our children compassion and appreciation for individuals with disabilities. In today’s society where the “r” word (retarded) is commonplace and as we hear more accounts in the news of individuals being bullied and abused, it makes it that much more important for us as parents to be vigilant about teaching our children empathy and appreciation for individual differences. I’m confident that if you are a parent, you are taking every opportunity to do this when you see or come into contact with a person with a physical disability, but have you thought about opportunities to do so when you come to know someone with a “silent” disability such as a learning disability, ADHD, or emotional disturbance? I found this to be much more challenging to teach when my children were growing up. I can remember occasions when my kids would come home from school and tell me about a student who was annoying because he fidgeted all the time and wouldn’t stop blurting out his thoughts; or when a student was difficult to deal with because of his or her behavior. I tried to teach my children that these students need our support, too, and I tried to stress the importance of empathy and tolerance.
I encourage you to do the same. If you are a parent, what an awesome opportunity you have to teach your children these important qualities while they are young. Your children might employ these individuals one day. If you are a student, what a great opportunity you have to be the person who could make a difference in the life of one of these individuals. Right now, you can be an excellent model for other students to follow. One day, you might be a co-worker with one of these individuals and they will need your support then, too. If you are one of these students, what a great opportunity you have to advocate for yourself, to teach others about your challenges, and how to embrace your differences. If you aren’t sure about your disability and want to learn more, ask your parent, your special education teacher (if you have one), or the school psychologist at your school. You can also post a comment here with a request for more information about a particular disability and I would be happy to post more information about it.
Thanks for reading!