Now I'm not sure which talk you're thinking of right now, but I'm probably not talking about the same one. I'll explain. Lila and I were sitting outside with our neighbors today- a mom and her two typical daughters, ages 4 and 9. Lila and the 4 year old were playing with sidewalk chalk and the 9 year old was tending to her hermit crabs. (Gross) Lila kept trying to color exactly where the 4 year old was coloring, messing up her pretty picture. The 4 year old was getting irritated with Lila, not understanding why Lila wouldn't just color in her "own space". My neighbor was explaining to her 4 year old that Lila didn't understand, that she's much younger. The little girl said, "She's not that much younger! She's almost 3!" And the mom said "Yes, that's true, but she doesn't understand." I have talked with this neighbor and 2 of my other neighbors about Lila and whether or not they have talked to their kids about Lila. Being a little different than they are. They had not and we agreed that we would wait to tell the kids when they noticed a difference. I'm wasn't exactly sure how to handle this subject- there are definitely opposing views on what/what not to do in this situation. Nick and I decided that we would handle it like we try to handle everything- head on and with truth. Lila has Down Syndrome, she is a little different. There are many similarities, but definitely some differences. We also feel like kids shouldn't be "shushed" when they ask honest questions- they deserve answers and hopefully this will help them to be more accepting of people that are different from them throughout their lives. Back to the story. The 9 year old neighbor girl didn't say much, she just took it all in. The 4 year old decided that she wanted to go home and when she did, the 9 year old brought her hermit crabs over to sit by Lila. She sat far enough away that Lila couldn't reach in and be pinched by one of them but close enough so that Lila could see. She was telling Lila about the crabs, describing their painted shells, all the while making sure that Lila was safe. Every time Lila reached toward the little bucket the 9 year old gently moved it away but kept talking to Lila. I was very moved by this display of kindness. We've lived across the street from these people for 5 years and I've never seen her act this way. She's just a typical kid, but she doesn't have much interest in or patience for people that are younger than she is. As I watched this play out I had a feeling that this little girl senses there is something different about Lila.
It might be time to have a talk with the neighbor girls. I am thinking about having coffee with their mothers and making it happen. I don't want it to be a big "to do", but I have to have a plan, right? I bought some books on Amazon today-Don't Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability,
In Jesse's Shoes, The Special Needs Acceptance Book: Being a Friend to Someone with
Special Needs and We Can Do It!
Any thoughts? I'm not looking for advice on whether or not to have the talk- we've already decided that. So many people only want to focus on the similarities and back away from addressing the difference of their kids with DS. The kids already see the similarities, but they also see the differences. They're kids- curious, wanting answers. We believe that it would be best to provide the answers in a safe, loving and positive environment. And, in this case, we hope to answer some of the questions before they are asked. They're going to be on a playground at some point in the future and someone is going to call someone else the "R" word. Hopefully we can steer this particular group of kids in the right direction.
Learning as we go~