Teaching our twins about special needs…
Many of you might be wondering about where the inspiration for our series on children with special needs came from. Just a few months ago, I (Justin) was at a local Starbucks with Ava and Alexis when I noticed the girls staring at a little boy in a wheelchair, who we later learned had cerebral palsy.
I’m sure that just like you, Ami and I want to make sure that we teach the girls to be kind, compassionate, respectful and inclusive. But when it comes to practical application, in the spur of the moment, I realized I had three choices:
- Ignore or hush the girls, hoping that the nearby family didn’t hear them (not likely with the decibel level of five year-olds). This sends the message that this child/family is “weird”, “bad” or something to be afraid of.
- Stumble awkwardly in trying to explain the situation, probably getting most of the information wrong and making the parent feel “different”, overlooked, stared at and isolated.
- Ask the parent if my girls could meet her child, and matter-of-factly show the girls that while they may look different, there was nothing to be scared of and in fact, they actually had things in common!
It was right there at Starbucks, on just a normal day, where the girls got their first major introduction into the world of special needs children.
It is so important to Ami and I that we use our platform and level of exposure to not only provide cute content of the girls, but to make the world a better place. A little bit lighter, a little bit brighter and a little bit better. It was after this encounter that I quickly realized that we were onto something. If I, as a parent, didn’t know how to redirect my girls who were innocently staring at something that they hadn’t seen before or know how to appropriately answer their questions, I’m sure I’m not alone.
“As parents of little girls who will grow and enter the world filled with all different kinds of people, it is our job to prepare our children. We want to arm them with kindness, love and compassion for all people” – Ami McClure
It was then and there where I was inspired to begin a mini-series on our weekly Facebook Show, “The Discovery Twins”. I knew I wanted to take the girls (and indirectly, all of you) on a journey to meet all sorts of different children in the special needs community. It is our hope that these videos will help you feel more practically equipped to navigate situations like the one that occurred at Starbucks with the girls and I.
The family teams up with VIP Kidz to make the world a little better.Will you help?
Posted by Discovery Twins on Friday, September 14, 2018
This takes us to our most recent video which was a collaboration with VIP KIDZ.
Can you imagine not having a daycare facility that your child could attend? What would you do? Stay home from work? Could you then afford your everyday expenses? Remember, not just anyone can watch your child if they have medically special needs. Do you know just how expensive a private nurse is? I can only empathize with special needs parents out there dealing with things I take for granted on a daily basis. Even if finances afforded me everything, I think about how these children would be isolated at home all day, while Ava, Alexis and other typical children enjoyed every day activities like afternoons at the park, kicking a ball around or riding bikes around the block.
Thankfully, there is a place like VIP Kidz. Ami and I feel so fortunate that we were able to go as a family to see it. Run by Susie and John Lage and located in West Palm Beach, Florida, VIP Kidz offers a unique day care program to medically-needy and special needs children. An inclusive place where kids can thrive both medically and socially. Equipped with nursing care and all the therapies they need, children have a safe and inclusive place where they can have FUN and just be kids!
If you haven’t seen the video, our girls had a blast helping with their annual carnival and meeting lots of new friends! Our girls especially loved meeting ten year-old Rashiya, who is actually one of our subscribers! It was really neat seeing the girls feeling that instant connection to her when they heard her talk about quite a few of their YouTube videos such as, the ones where the girls did their hair and danced with Heaven King. Describing a colostomy bag may be a little complicated, but the girls got right to the point!
“Dada, they don’t go to the bathroom (pointing toward the bathroom), they just poop it out in a bag!” – Alexis to Justin McClure
As our series on the special needs community comes to a close, I know the girls will remember kids like Kayden, Rashiya, Chazzy, Super Noah, Talisha and Josephine. And how could we forget Janice and her service dog, Savannah? Or the first time the girls were able to interface with prosthetic legs or a colostomy bag? And hopefully they’ll remember at least a fact or two about cerebral palsy, down syndrome, muscular dystrophy and Tetrasomy 8D mosaicism (which only twenty five people in the entire US live with!)
How do we continue the conversation with our kids?
It’s really important to Ami and I that we create not only new memories together, like we have, but also give the girls a sense of wonder in the everyday. Like most of you, we’re busy and big excursions aren’t always as realistic as we’d like. Along with “field trips” into the community, most children love to read. I know our girls do. We all know that reading to your child is important; children love it and it also provides opportunities to create conversation and hear what they are thinking and feeling.
When it came to learning about special needs, just like the rest of life, our girls are NOT shy in asking questions when they are curious or don’t understand something. But, just like adults, as we digest new things, questions can come to light days to hours later.
For little ones (kindergarten through third grade)
As parents, we also want to model to our girls kindness and inclusion in more subtle ways. Here are a few books that the girls love! The illustrations in these award-winning books are incredible. These are not just about special needs children but highlight overarching themes of kindness, inclusion and anti-bullying. These are lessons, we all want to teach our children, especially in today’s climate.
For the Bigger Kids:
For older children that can handle a PG rating, the hit 2017 family movie Wonder with Julia Roberts was a huge hit and definitely deserved. The children’s book We’re All Wonders is based on this movie. For bigger kids, there’s also a book version of Wonder that is WONDERful! If you’re looking for holiday gifts, these couldn’t be more recommended!
AND WHAT IF YOU WANT MORE?
Many of you have expressed that our series on special needs has inspired you to do something together with your family, but you haven’t figured out what to do yet.
Here are three simple ideas, I’m sure there’s many more:
Organizations like VIP Kidz truly take a village. Whether you donate, provide needed supplies, or volunteer as a family, there are many local organizations in your area that could use a helping hand.
Encourage your child to take the The Great Kindness Challenge, or better yet, just be kind everyday. Help them find that person in their classroom and community that just needs a friend, and when possible, plan an activity together.
3. Invest! What we heard time and time again, as we met the parents of the amazing children we featured, is that so often their children are left out and the parents feel isolated. Perhaps it stems from human awkwardness, perhaps we just don’t know what to do or maybe we’re just busy. But we’d encourage you to invest in the lives of the special needs parents you encounter on a regular basis. There are many ways to help! Maybe you buy them a coffee sometime, maybe you just ask how they’re doing and actually listen, or maybe you offer to watch one of their other children so the parent can focus on taking their special needs child to one of their therapies — these are just a few ways you can support parents of special needs children in your area and provide critical resources to assist them.
In the end, Ami and I just want you to know how glad we are for the ways in which you resonated with this series and like always, couldn’t be more grateful to you for your support.