01 Mar Talking To Your Kids About Disabilities: Disability Awareness Month 2023
By Dianne Thompson
Every year in March, we celebrate Disability Awareness Month. We asked Fishers resident and mother of a child with disabilities, Dianne Thompson, to write a guest blog about her personal connection to this month and the ways we can support inclusion and acceptance of people with different abilities in our community. Read her story and find our recommended booklists below!
“When I found out I was pregnant, I thought about what my future child will be like. Will she do well in school? Will she be an athlete like her dad or learn to play instruments like me? Will she have a great job when she’s an adult?
I was a healthy person and had a healthy pregnancy. I assumed my baby would be born healthy, too.
Nobody prepares you for a NICU stay or what to expect when you leave the NICU.
All those questions I thought about at the start of my pregnancy changed drastically. Will she be able to go to school without a nurse going with her? Will she be able to be in a general education class ever? Will she be able to graduate? How will she support herself after her dad and I leave this earth? Who will take care of her?
Her peers spend their free time going to soccer practice, gymnastics, or dance class, while her free time is filled with doctor appointments, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, feeding therapy, developmental therapy, and music therapy. She also receives therapies during the school day.
Let’s not forget that in this day and age, both parents usually have to work full time to be able to live in an area that has great therapies and school services. Let’s also add in the shortage of nursing care and the lack of people who want to watch a child with needs that are special.
This is the life we live, and it’s not for the faint of heart.
But, being my daughter’s mom is the best job I’ve ever had.
It is because of my daughter that we’ve been able to meet some of the most amazing parents and kids in our special needs world!
It is because of my daughter that I’ve learned patience, hard work, and dedication to finish a task from start to finish.
It is because of my daughter that I have stepped out of my introverted comfort zone to make sure she gets to experience all the fun, accessible activities that I can find for her.
My daughter is at an age where her neurotypical peers are starting to ask “why” questions about her situation. This is where our community can step in and help.
There are many books you can buy or check out at your local library. There are also children’s shows and YouTube videos featuring characters/people who use wheelchairs or have hearing devices, communication devices, and certain diagnoses.
I believe the more children that see these alternative ways to move, eat, and/or communicate, the less it’s seen as a “big deal” as they grow up.
Our public school district has been a part of a nationally known program called Best Buddies where children like my daughter get paired with neurotypical peers and they get to know each other and become friends. They make the connection at a young age, so as they go through school, children like my daughter will have allies.
We are also fortunate to live in a city like Fishers, where accessibility is a priority.
There’s still a long way to go, but the world is starting to acknowledge the different abilities in children with representation in books, television, print/commercial advertisements, and even dolls that come with wheelchairs and a dream house with an elevator lift!
Now, it’s our turn as adults to use those tools to teach our children to be kind humans.
My hope for this year’s Disability Awareness Month is that you smile and say hello instead of just stare or that your child comes up to my daughter and gives her a fist bump (she loves those), and lastly, that people would stop parking in handicap parking spots when they don’t have proper tags.”
About Dianne Thompson
A self-proclaimed military brat, Dianne moved around the world with her family until they decided to call Indiana their permanent home in the mid-90s. She is a graduate of Center Grove High School and Indiana University by way of IUPUI. She has been a Northsider since 2010.
She met her husband, Arin, in 2004. They married in 2016 and welcomed their feisty daughter, Dru, in 2017. Dianne works full-time for the Department of Veterans Affairs and has been a member of the Indiana Air National Guard for 19 years and counting.
She loves attending all the events Fishers hosts, with the Farmer’s Market being her (and Dru’s) favorite thing to do in the summer. During her free time, Dianne loves to spend time brunching with friends (and Dru), creating fun shirts for Dru using her Cricut, and going to the movies.
Fishers Parks’ Storywalk: We Move Together
Daily, March 1 – 31 | Brooks School Park (11780 Brooks School Road)
Each month, HEPL and Fishers Parks feature a nature-based picture book on the trail for you to enjoy during a quarter-mile hike in the woods. This month’s book, We Move Together is a joyful new children’s book about the disability community and culture. Take a self-guided hike as you enjoy this children’s book by Kelly Fritsch. Registration is not required for this free event.
Disability Awareness Month Events at HEPL
Neurodivergent Teen Hangout
Thursday, March 2 | 6-7 PM | Noblesville
Drop-In Activity: Klee Scratch Art (inspired by artist Paul Klee)
March 6-19 | Ignite Studio
Paper Basket Class for Adults with IDD with Teaching Artist Yuki Darrow
Saturday, March 11 | 11 AM-12:30 PM & 2-3:30 PM | Ignite Studio
Calming Collage Class
Saturday, March 25 | 11 AM-12:30 PM | Ignite Studio
Virtual Autism Family Support Waiver Workshop
Monday, March 27 | 6:30-7:30 PM | Virtual
Disability Awareness Month Booklists
Explore these recommended titles for Disability Awareness Month. Many of these are also available through Libby and Hoopla as e-books and e-audiobooks!