Are you curious about others who are different than you?
“Auggie,” a ten year old boy who was the main character with a cranial facial disorder in WONDER was smart, compassionate, funny and kind; but was deeply hurt by the bullying and dismissive behaviors of his school classmates. Their preconceived ideas blinded them to the WONDER-ful person Auggie was.
We all have value. No matter one’s developmental deficiencies or differences we should embrace and welcome them seeking to learn and show kindness along that process. I honestly left the theater thinking this attitude could change our world if we employed the simple message of being kind.
Kindness: simple; but all encompassing. All of us can learn to be kind. All of us want to be treated kindly. Where can we start? With a willing heart!
Here are some ways to take the next step in showing kindness and engaging those with special needs (obvious and not so obvious) to get to know and understand them better:
- Go up to them. Seek them out. Don’t turn or walk away.
- Engage them directly in conversation. If there is a caregiver with them, address the one with special needs, but look to the caregiver for direction, interpretation, and instructions. (Most caregivers are parents and they will love that you’re including their child in conversation and making them feel a “part” of what’s going on.)
- Reach out to shake their hand, realizing they might not be able to control their movements, taking their hand, and saying your “hello.” If that seems awkward, patting them on the shoulder is a good secondary choice.
- Talk to them. If they don’t/can’t respond, still talk to them. Share things with them that don’t need their response, “It’s so nice to see you.” “I hope you’re enjoying our church (school, party, etc.)!” “We love when you get to be with us.” These kinds of statements work better than asking questions they can’t answer. If they do talk, then ask questions, and be patient to wait for them to speak. They may stutter, drool, take a long time to form a thought, etc. – just wait.
- Smile at them. Watch your facial expressions. Be careful not to look afraid, uneasy, or uncomfortable; just practice. As you get to know them your inhibitions will subside and each encounter will be better and better.
- Show kindness. Always.
The more you get to know those with special needs, the less you’ll wonder about them and the more you’ll enjoy your time with them, and they with you!