All children benefit from having positive friendships and feeling a sense of belonging. To feel included and a part of something also helps develop their confidence and sense of identity. These positive experiences are especially important for children with additional needs or a disability.
In Australia, 89 per cent of school-aged children with a disability attend a mainstream school*. Having additional needs or a disability refers to a wide range of conditions that in some way limit a person’s ability to manage everyday living. Some disabilities are visible, but some you can’t see.
Having additional needs or a disability may place limits on some of the things that children can do. This might mean they need support to participate in activities that their classmates enjoy.
Children begin to notice ways they are the same or different from a young age. Parents’ attitudes and opinions are huge contributors to whether these opinions are positive or negative. Talking to your child about difference can be tricky, but there are a number of ways you can help your child understand and accept differences in others, such as:
- helping your kids to be accepting of all children, including those with disabilities and include children of different abilities in their play
- being an advocate for disability – make sure others understand the need to include and value people with disabilities
- making sure that you demonstrate inclusive behavior towards people with disabilities
You may like to read further about supporting the mental health and wellbeing of children with additional needs.
* Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2006, 'Disability updates: Children with disabilities', Bulletin, 42, Australian Government