How to start a positive conversation with kids about special needs


Special needs mom gives advice

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Getting kids ready to go back to school can be about more than just shopping for supplies – it can also be a time to prepare them for new things they may encounter this year.

Amber Kanallakan is a special needs mom and writer for Portland Moms Blog. Her youngest son Oliver was born without a hand.

“So if your child is in my child’s kindergarten class this year, there’s a good chance when your kid comes home from school they’re gonna say ‘mom there’s a kid in my class with one hand,'” Kanallakan said.

She said that’s where parents have the opportunity to start a positive conversation.

“We can start with ‘you have blue eyes and she has brown eyes’ and ‘you walk with two feet and she uses a wheelchair to move’ or ‘you have two hands and Oliver has one hand.'”

Amber Kanallakan. (KOIN)

Kanallakan said to embrace their curiosity and let children know it’s OK to ask questions.

“Oliver has complete freedom if somebody asks him what’s wrong with your hand, to say it’s just the way my body is,” she said. “Oftentimes these days he will say shark attack, which we also say is fine.”

Talking with children before school starts and teaching them to celebrate differences can make the back to school transition easier for everyone.

“Really emphasizing the value of every kid in the classroom is important,” Kanallakan said.

The library is a great resource to find books that celebrate differences in all people. She also recommends a YouTube channel called Special Books by Special Kids.

Read Kanallakan’s article about talking to your kids about physical differences and Oliver’s first day of preschool.

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