How to Teach Kids About Others with Special Needs

There are approximately 61 million Americans with a disability. So, it’s inevitable that our children will engage with others that look or act differently than them. Since children are naturally very curious, they will likely innocently point out a person who appears different and will start asking questions — and that’s ok! It’s important that we teach children empathy and kindness by embracing each others’ differences.

It’s never too early to start teaching children that God made everyone unique and special. Talking to your child openly and respectfully about disabilities can help them gain a better understanding of why some people look, talk, act, or move a little bit differently. Everyone is created in God’s image and incredibly special!

Read on for tips on how to teach your child to embrace others with special needs.

Encourage Conversation

Instead of ignoring the topic, it’s important that we normalize it and have open conversations with our children about differences. We should never shame a child for noticing something different — but rather satisfy their curiosity with information and truth using simple, relatable, and respectful words.

Educate them with specific examples of differences they may encounter so they are prepared, such as a classmate with a hearing aid, a child at the playground in a wheelchair, or a cousin that has Autism or Down’s Syndrome. Explain that some disabilities can easily be seen and others can’t. Explain how some people may need extra help or special technology. Say things like, “The muscles in his legs aren’t as strong as yours, so he uses a wheelchair to help him get around. Isn’t it so nice that this grocery store has special parking spaces to help him?” For younger kids, read children’s books that include characters that have a disability.

The goal is to simply help them realize that everyone is different and those differences should be celebrated — not avoided, disrespected, or judged.

Focus on Similarities

Children will better relate to others with special needs if they can understand how they’re similar. So, point out things that someone with a disability might have in common with your child, such as “Bobby loves music, just like you do!” Encourage your child to get to know the person and find things they have in common. In turn, this will naturally encourage empathy and inclusion.

Point Back to God

Most importantly, this is a great opportunity to point children back to God and explain that He created everyone according to His plan and purpose. Say things like, “God made Bobby different than He made you, and that’s ok! Wouldn’t the world be boring if God made all of us exactly the same?” For more information on this, check out our blog God Makes Us Unique & Valuable.

Model Kindness

The best way to teach this to your child is to model it for them. Show warmth and empathy to people with special needs, which will make your child more comfortable. Remember, we all want to be loved and valued, just as God sees us. This is one of the most important lessons we can teach children. Want to dive into this topic further? Check out our podcast episode, Supporting Kids with Special Needs & Their Families.

Relevant Bible Verses

Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.
– Psalm 127:3

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
– John 9:1-3

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers[a] or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
– Luke 14:12-14

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
– Exodus 4:11

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