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Ten messages about children with disabilities

(The following information, developed by Gulbadan Habibi, addresses ways to help children with disabilities learn in a safe and equitable environment.)

  1. Prevent negative stereotypical attitudes about children with disabilities by avoiding negative words, such as "disabled," "crippled," or "handicapped," instead of "a child with a physical or movement disability"; "wheelchair bound" for "a child who uses wheelchair", "deaf and dumb" instead of "a child with hearing and speech disability", or "retarded" for "a child with mental disability."

  2. Depict children with disabilities with equal status as those without disabilities. For example, a student with a disability can tutor a younger child without a disability. Children with disabilities should interact with non-disabled children in as many ways as possible.

  3. Allow children with disabilities to speak for themselves and express their thoughts and feelings. Involve children with and without disabilities in the same projects and encourage their mutual participation.

  4. Observe children and identify disabilities. Early detection of disabilities has become part of early-childhood education. The earlier a disability is detected in a child, the more effective the intervention and the less severe the disability.

  5. Refer the child whose disability is identified for developmental screening and early intervention.

  6. Adapt the lessons, learning materials and classroom to the needs of children with disabilities. Use means such as large print, seating the child in the front of the class, and making the classroom accessible for the child with a movement disability. Integrate positive ideas about disabilities into classwork, children’s play and other activities.

  7. Sensitise parents, families, and caregivers about the special needs of children with disabilities. Speak to parents in meetings as well as on a one-to-one basis.

  8. Teach frustrated parents simple ways to deal with and manage their child's needs, and help them to have patience to prevent abuse of the disabled child.

  9. Guide siblings and other family members in lessening the pain and frustration of parents of children with disabilities by being helpful.

  10. Actively involve parents of young children with disabilities as full team members in planning school and after school activities.

Useful resources include:

    Disabled Village Children (Hesperian Foundation) and Nothing About us Without Us (Health Rights), both by David Werner

    Training in the Community for People With Disabilities, published by WHO

    Let's Communicate, a handbook for people working with children with communication difficulties by WHO/UNICEF and the Ministry of Health in Zimbabwe

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Last revised April, 1999
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