Television can be a useful tool, allowing you to explore different cultures, religions, and ways of life from the comfort of your own home. Taking the time to explore these topics in a safe place can go a long way in helping children, teens and even adults understand others in their day-to-day life.
Recently a member of the HSS Facebook community shared a recent episode of Girl Meets World, which explored the acceptance of differences. The plot centered on a main character who felt that he might have a diagnosis of autism, and how his friends supported him through it. Episodes like this help to familiarize people with what they may perceive as different.
Autism, like many diagnoses, can present in a variety of ways. A main defining characteristic is difficulties in the social use of communication, such as in relating and engaging with others. However, unlike the character in the show, not all individuals are able to pinpoint exactly what makes them “different,” while others may be aware but do not have the ability to effectively communicate it.
I find it helpful to keep the following in mind when interacting with children and families of all different abilities:
- Find out what someone is interested in and join in their play.
- Lead by example. Children learn from the adults in their lives. A simple smile and wave go a long way.
- Although an individual may not use traditional forms of communication, it does not mean they cannot understand the emotion and body language behind your words.
- Physical disability does not always mean there is a developmental or cognitive delay. Always speak to the individual; if they are unable to respond for themselves, the caregiver will assist.
- An individual is not their diagnosis. When referring to a person with a particular condition, try using person first terminology such as saying “John has autism,” as opposed to “Autistic John.”
The unknown can sometimes be intimidating, but when properly done, television, movies, or social media are amazing tools to expand our awareness. Within the CA Technologies Rehabilitation Center at the Lerner Children’s Pavilion, we interact with a variety of individuals not only with orthopedic but also developmental and cognitive diagnoses. Each and every child, teen and adult is unique. We truly believe that finding and appreciating a person for who they are is the first step in not only working together, but creating friendships.