Teaching kids kindness

It’s a sad fact that many kids are bullied, and especially those who are different.

I really liked these classroom strategies to teach children kindness, and I’m sure they could be used in many other places as well.

The first one is called Erasing Meanness, and videos over a couple of days about bullying, the teacher filled the whiteboard with synonyms of meanness.  She then erased a few words to ask “How do you want to be remembered?”, and invited the children to replace some of the mean words with kind words of their choosing.

The second is to create an ongoing paper chain of kindness– write down the kind things that they had done or experienced that day, and add them to the chain.

Communication about disabilities

Disability Services Queensland has put together some great resources about how to communicate with people with disabilities, and additional tips about guide/hearing/assistance dogs.  Towards the bottom of the page, there are several links- two in particular are exceptional.

The first is “A way with words: Guidelines for the portrayal of people with a disability”.

The purpose of this booklet is to promote inclusiveness and the fair and accurate portrayal of people with a disability.  It is intended as an aid for professional communicators, such as journalists, writers, producers and broadcasters, and provides suggestions for appropriate language, interviewing techniques and media coverage involving people with a disability.  

While that description does sound rather dry, the booklet is very engaging and readable, with great cartoon illustrations throughout.  Some of the recommendations include emphasising individuality (eg emotions, interests, problems, talents, frustrations, faults and roles), not disability; avoiding superhuman or excessively emotive portrayals, and not focusing on the person’s disability unless it is important to the story. There is also a list of words to avoid, with acceptable alternatives.  One suggestion given was to use the phrase “uses a wheelchair” instead of “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound”, because a wheelchair provides mobility, not restriction.

The other link that I found useful was the Medical Signing Board.  There are Yes/No/I Don’t Know options across the top, front and back models of the body in the middle, 15 options for medical issues on the left (eg hot, cold, vomit, headache, bleeding, broken, seizure), 12 communication options on the right (eg need more information, call someone, worried, too loud, hungry), and a visual 1-10 pain scale at the bottom.  The second page lists some things paramedics might do (eg blood pressure, take temperature, bandage, medicine), a short social story, visuals for wait/be still/calm down, and some interaction tips for the paramedics.  Very thorough- wish I’d had this for Abi’s last admission!

Buddy Bench

This lovely idea is a great way to minimise bullying and increase inclusion.  A young boy, having seen a similar idea at a school overseas, raised it with his principal and school board, who agreed to implement it.  Kids who feel lonely at recess can sit on this bench, and be invited to play or walk with others.  The website has several different strategies with which the benches can be used- Christian’s Buddy Bench.

Kids with disabilities need to learn…

Adult with disabilities shares what kids with disabilities need to learn, by Andrew Pulrang.

What skills do children with disabilities need to become independent adults? There are plenty of transition planning guides and parenting tips to help answer this question. I would like to offer some ideas to consider, as an adult who was once a child with disabilities.

At times it may seem like independence is determined by the type and level of disability a person has, but it isn’t. People with all kinds of disabilities live independently. What they have in common is a set of key skills and habits… (very sensible and practical list!)

Judith Heumann, one of the leaders of the disability rights movement, helped define Independent Living, when she said, “Independence is not about doing things for yourself. It is about having control over how things are done.” You can be independent and in control, even if you literally can’t lift a finger or speak an audible word. You just need the right tools and supports.

Focus on positive

Reclaiming the dignity lost in a diagnosis, by Cas Faulds (We are like your child blog).

My son is autistic, and I know what it is like to sit with professionals and be told how limited your child is.  

Her recommendation: Rewrite the professional report using positive (neurodiverse) language, rather than negative/deficit (pathology) language- and she includes an example.

You are going to have to introduce your child to teachers and therapists and you’re going to have to do that more than once.  When you do, you want to do that from a place of strength rather than a place of weakness.  You want to highlight your child’s unique potential rather than place limitations on them.  

Positive parenting

One of the things we struggled with when we received the first autism diagnosis, was what expectations we should have about our child’s behaviour.  We didn’t want to expect behaviours she was incapable of, which would be unfair, but neither did we want to use autism to excuse everything.  Many traditional parenting methods were ineffective for us, so we’ve just figured it out as we’ve gone along!  Some of the links below contain strategies we’ve found effective (not autism-specific), plus a few that we’re interested in trying!  They may not (and probably won’t!) work for everyone, but it’s definitely worth reading the links to glean whatever may be useful for your family.

Positive Parent Consequences Guide (SkinNurse blog).

What’s the deal with consequences (Positive Parents).

SkinNurse links to the Positive Parents article at the bottom of the post, but I thought both articles were good enough to share.

Throw the word “consequence” entirely out of your vocabulary and replace it with the term “problem-solving.”

Do you see how this changes the whole concept in your mind? Now it’s not about coming up with something to do to your child, but it’s about working with your child to find a solution. Having your child involved in the problem-solving process will not only teach him valuable lessons and instil self-discipline, but it will leave his dignity intact, and he’ll feel good about himself and his relationship with you.

A better way to say sorry (EsteticNurer blog).

The four part apology (EsteticNurer blog).

Both of these posts are from the same author, and cover the same four points (I’m sorry for…, This is wrong because…, In the future, I will…, Will you forgive me?), but the first post gives examples from the classroom, and the second from the home- both are very good.

Seven steps to encourage honesty in our kids and put an end to lying (EsteticNurer blog).

How to deal with lying in children and teens (Empowering Parents).

I believe that with kids, lying is a faulty problem–solving skill. It’s our job as parents to teach our children how to solve those problems in more constructive ways. Here are a few of the reasons why kids lie.

Beyond Anger Management: What’s behind the mask? (Free Spirit Publishing).

Many students used anger to mask other emotions. It was easier to say they felt mad than to admit feeling hurt, abandoned, disappointed, lonely, or betrayed.

A neat activity involving drawing on both sides of a paper plate to unpack the emotions involved.

Tattling vs reporting (EsteticNurer blog).

Am I Tattling or Reporting? Tattling is when I get someone in trouble. Reporting is when I get someone out of trouble.

Plus an acronym for “Before you speak, THINK”. 

Getting rid of “It’s not fair!” (EsteticNurer blog).

A great example of how a teacher demonstrates fairness to her class. She asks everyone where their boo-boo is, then puts a bandaid on the same spot for every student. Fair doesn’t mean the same. We are all different so what we need is not always the same.

Reddit thread on disability

A powerful Reddit thread reveals what it’s like to be disabled (Washington Post).

[A] reddit user posted a thread about the lives of people with disabilities. Called “Disabled people of reddit, what is something we do that we think helps, but it really doesn’t?”, the thread received almost 10,000 comments from people with a wide range of disabilities, such as missing limbs, cerebral palsy, severe back pain and rheumatoid arthritis, in just a few days.

Here are 14 of the most common suggestions that people with disabilities made about how to treat them. Some of these suggestions are incredibly insightful; others should be obvious, but apparently bear repeating.

Autism, puberty and respect

Autism, puberty and respect, by Jess (Diary Of A Mom blog). The first thing that I really like about this post, is her explanation why she won’t discuss her daughter’s puberty (respect and privacy).  Her main message is “talk to your kids about puberty”.  Even if they’re non-verbal, and showing no sign that they’re registering what you’re saying, presume competence and talk anyway.  Find a way to communicate information to them (she lists some examples), because:

“There is nothing more disconcerting, terrifying even, than your body changing without warning. Than hormones toying with your moods and jarring your emotional world without explanation. These things, without context and without explanation, are confusing and terrifying.

You see, this isn’t something that will wait until our kids are “developmentally” ready to handle it. When their bodies are ready, they will have to “handle” it one way or another. They deserve to know what the hell is happening to them.”

Our common humanity

What I learn from my kids in talking about disability – talking about disability in terms of common humanity – we all have things we enjoy, and we all have things we find difficult.

How we discuss our children – instead of focusing on how difficult parenting is, remember that there is a person right in front of us, who has feeling and opinions.