“It takes a village to raise a child.” is an African proverb I love. Wikipedia states it means “it takes an entire community of different people interacting with children for a child to experience and grow in a safe environment. The villagers would look out for the children.”
Now that I’m a parent, I understand even more. I want children to learn, experience, and grow in a safe environment. Unfortunately, at times what happens is not learning at all. It’s an experience that affects someone’s self-worth as a result of the negative actions of others. I wish that we could protect children from every negative experience. We can’t. But we should start by teaching our children to be unconditionally kind to each other. Teach them to reach out to others that need kindness—digital kindness as well as in person.
Following is a poignant article posted on FaceBook by a friend of mine and special education teacher, Kate Baleiko-Rogers. It was initially published in honor of Special Education Week and said everything I want to say, only much more eloquently.
When you have a “typical” child, you feel reasonably assured that class participation and decent study habits will result in good grades. These kids have close friends. They get invited to participate in social things like dances and weekend gatherings. They make the teams and clubs. But when you have a child with specific differences, this is often not the case. Learning may take longer, both academically and socially. Despite their tremendous efforts, results are often a fraction of their peers, and social acceptance is fleeting, setting them up for painful comparisons and bitter frustration. Instead of a fun and fulfilling experience, the school can become a breeding ground for depression and anxiety. It is exhausting for parents and children alike.
For every child struggling to succeed in a world that doesn’t recognize their gifts and talents, and for those who walk beside them, please let this be a gentle reminder to be kind and accepting of ALL people. Recognize that the “playing field” is not always a level surface. Children who learn differently are not weird. They are gifted in ways that our society does not yet value. Yet they want what everyone else wants: To be accepted.
If you choose, please copy and paste this in honor of all children deemed “different.” Our world would be far less beautiful without them.