A woman in a wheelchair is surrounded by three small children with speech bubbles coming from them showing a heart, hair surrounded by sparkles, and a question mark

The Mom In The Wheelchair

Recently, I had an experience I didn’t know I desperately needed.

I went to volunteer in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom. I was nervous because I did not want my wheelchair to be a distraction while the kids were trying to learn. I also knew my daughter, Scarlett, was so excited and proud that I was going to be there.

Kindergarteners are not ableist

I was reassured during this opportunity that ableism is something society teaches and not something humans show up with. Ableism teaches disabled individuals that they are less than, not equal. The moment I entered the classroom I was warmly greeted by all of the kids and referred to as Scarlett’s mom. I was given a hand-drawn picture. I was told my hair was pretty. I was accepted fully into their world. I was not less than in any way. It gave me so much hope for our future generations.

Of course, the kids had questions here and there. The main question being why are you in a wheelchair?

When speaking with kids about disability I try to keep it short and concise. I will often say my legs do not work like yours so in order to get around I use this wheelchair.

Talking to kids about your disability

Here are some other things to keep in mind when speaking to kids about disability:

  • It’s important to keep your language neutral when speaking to kids about disabilities. Having a disability is not good or bad it just is.
  • Do not shame children for being curious about something they genuinely want to understand.
  • Make sure you are ready to answer tough questions if they come up. Kids have a way of getting to the point quickly.
  • Pointing out similarities between you and the child can make it easier for them to understand and relate.
  • Explain adaptive equipment.

They are curious

Explaining my wheelchair was the next most asked about topic. They were all very curious about the buttons on my wheelchair and what did they do and how did my joystick work? I explained each one. I was also able to explain and educate on the importance of not touching someone’s wheelchair without permission. Everyone was very respectful and after a few minutes all of their questions were answered and we were able to get into learning.

I was learning, too

I was assigned to the math table. The kids had to add together each side of a domino and write out equations. They have learned so much this year already and did such a good job. I loved hearing all of their thoughts and seeing all of their problem-solving skills.

Being able to share my disability in the classroom allowed me to take away the mystery of someone in a wheelchair. The kids taught me as much as I taught them in our brief interaction. I learned it’s ok to be me and they learned it’s ok if people are different. We are all different and yet all human.

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