Kind·ness: 

the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.

In·clu·sion: 

the action or state of including or of being included within a group.

“I look all around me and what do I see? So many kids not so different from me. We’re all good at something, and have kindness to share. We can all be good helpers, who love and who care.” – Xochitl Dixon “Different Like Me”

Everyone benefits from kindness and inclusion.

  • Teaching kindness and inclusion is one of the ways we can foster a caring community.
  • Learning kindness and compassion at a young age can provide lifelong benefits for all children.  
  • Children who are taught kindness and inclusion in early childhood have tools for healthier relationships and personal success later in life.

Introducing disability to your child

  • Disability is not scary. It is not contagious. Some people are born with it and some people become disabled during their life.
  • Disability is a part of human life. Disability is a form of human diversity or what makes us different as humans.
  • Not all disabilities are the same. There are visible and invisible disabilities.  A visible disability is one you can see by looking at the person – for example, a child in a wheelchair. An invisible disability is one you cannot see by looking at the person – for example, a child with a learning disability. 

Helpful tips

It is important to educate your children about differences and to encourage relationships with children of all different abilities. 

1. Welcome questions and encourage discussion 

Be calm when your child observes differences in public. As parents, we tend to be embarrassed when our child notices someone who might be different. Instead of being embarrassed or encouraging your child to look away, use this time as an opportunity to say hello to a new person. Encourage your child’s curiosity or questions. Kids are curious in the best and most innocent ways.

2. Model kindness and inclusion 

As parents, we set an example for children when they observe how we treat and speak about other individuals. Encourage kind words like “different” and “unique.” Avoid words like “strange” or “weird.

3. Teach empathy and intentionality 

Find common ground and similarities to show your child we are all more alike than different. Help your children see the similarities by communicating what they have in common with another child. Similarities could include a favorite sport, color, food, activity, game, book, movie, or TV show. This is a great place to start to show how relatable and connected they are instead of different.

4. Notice and celebrate differences 

Emphasize that all children have different abilities and that it is important to celebrate what makes every person unique.

Ask your child, “Do you know someone who might be different from you? What makes them special?”

Preferred language, terminology, and phrases 

The terminology, phrases and language we use in observing differences is important. We want to educate children and others to use words that are both kind and respectful.

Language

People First Language puts the person before the disability, and describes what a person has, not who a person is. People First Language uses phrases such as “person with a disability,” “individuals with disabilities,” and “children with disabilities,” as opposed to phrases that identify people based solely on their disability. 

By utilizing People First Language, we can eliminate outdated, prejudicial and hurtful descriptors while demonstrating kindness, inclusion, manners, and respect for all individuals. Furthermore, People First Language can change the way we “see” a person, and it can change the way a person feels about themselves. 

The language we use in describing specific differences is important. Making an effort to learn the acceptable language for a specific difference shows compassion. The following table gives examples of ways to substitute People First Language for outdated and/or offensive terminology. 

In many cases you can ask someone with a disability, “How do you prefer to describe…”

 

Common

Preferred

is special needs/ special needs child

child with special needs*
child with special abilities
*The child ALWAYS comes first

is autistic/ autistic child*
(*Down Syndrome, Dyslexic, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, etc.)

a child with autism

is blind and uses a walking stick

is blind and uses a cane to safely mobilize

is handicap/handicapped child

is a child with a disability

is wheelchair bound is a child who uses a wheelchair
is mentally retarded is a child with an intellectual disability
is a midget is a child with dwarfism, little person or person of short stature
is deaf and needs a hearing aid to hear is a child who is deaf and needs a cochlear implant to hear

Terminology

You may find these terms helpful when speaking to your children about differences. The correct terms you use can lead to a better understanding, acceptance and awareness of differences. 

Terms to avoid:

Risk

Disease

Genetic abnormality

Birth defect

Terms to use:

Chance

Genetic condition

Genetic variation

Congenital disability

Phrases

You may find these phrases helpful in gently correcting your child or others on how to kindly address and ask questions in reference to differences. 

Judgement

“What’s wrong with…?”

(not) normal

weird, freaky, ugly

retarded, crazy, stupid

fat, thin, short, other body descriptions

Observation

“What’s different about…?”

(not) typical

unique, different

thinks differently, brain works differently

built differently

 

Helpful Resources   

Free Educational Mobile App For Kids 

InspireMe-Books – More Alike Than Different App

    • This app provides the “More Alike Than Different” book by Sophia Day for free and allows your child to read along or read alone. 
    • Through this application, children can learn to be self-confident while respecting the uniqueness of others.

Free Educational Mobile App for Parents and Kids

Daily Wonder 

    • The Daily Wonder App is a free daily affirmation app that provides a precept for each day of the year celebrating kindness, goodness, and strength. Based on the book 365 Days of Wonder by #1 New York Times bestselling author R. J. Palacio.
    • Daily inspirational quotes that are shareable with friends and family. 
    • Daily choose kindness tips

Website Sources

Inclusion Project    https://www.inclusion-project.com/

  • Inclusion matters to everyone and together we can make a difference.
  • Inclusive Children’s booklist 
  • Includes interactive and educational worksheets and coloring pages focused on inclusion 

The Lucky Few & Heather Avis    https://www.heatheravis.com/

  • Shouting a counter narrative, celebrating differences, and creating a more inclusive world where everyone belongs. 

 

Children’s Book Resources 

There are thousands of books available for teaching children empathy and inclusivity. Reading books is one way we can teach our children these basic fundamentals. Four of our favorite books are listed below. We have also included a fantastic list of books about differences and inclusion.

ABCs of Kindness by Samantha Berger

A Rainbow of Friends by P.K. Hallinan

Different Like Me by Xochitl Dixon

We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio

Click HERE to view a list of more inclusive books on a variety of topics.