Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 47: Helping Teachers and Children Understand Disabled Children

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Children can be either very cruel or very kind to a child who is different. They may be cruel by teasing, laughing, imitating, or even doing physical harm. But more often they are cruel simply by not including the disabled child in their games or activities, by rejecting the child, or by pretending she does not exist.

Often children act in a cruel way because they fear what they do not understand. When they gain a little more understanding, children who may have been cruel or felt uncomfortable with the child who is different, can become that child’s best friends and helpers.

It is important that children in every neighborhood or community have a chance to better understand persons who, for whatever reason, are different from themselves— in color, in dress, in beliefs, in language, in movements, or in abilities.

One way to help a group of children gain appreciation of the disabled child and learn ways to be helpful is Through CHILD-to-child activities.

CHILD-to-child is a non-formal educational program in which school-aged children learn ways to protect the health and well-being of other children—especially younger children and those with special needs. The children learn simple preventive and curative measures appropriate to their own communities. They pass on what they learn to other children and their families.

The CHILD-to-child program began during the International Year of the Child, 1979. David Morley (author of Paediatric Priorities in the Developing World and See How They Grow) brought together a group of health workers and educators from many countries. They designed a series of ‘activity sheets’—or guidelines—to be adapted by teachers and health workers for children in different countries and situations.

child helping a blind child

Thirty-five activity sheets for children, including 5 activity sheets about disabled children, are available in a book called Child-to-Child: A Resource Book from Teaching Aids at Low Cost (TALC), PO Box 49, St. Albans, Herts. AL1 5TX, United Kingdom. The activity sheets in the packet include:

  • Children with disabilities
  • Helping children who do not see or hear well
  • Mental handicap and children
  • Polio
  • Helping children who experience war, disaster or conflict

Other activity sheets in Child-to-Child: A Resource Book, that include disability prevention are:

  • Feeding young children: feeding children aged 6 months to 2 years
  • Feeding young children: how do we know if they are eating enough?
  • Caring for children with diarrhea • Preventing accidents • Our neighborhood
  • Playing with young children: playing with babies
  • Playing with young children: play for preschool children
  • A place to play
  • Caring for children who are sick
  • Safe lifestyles

CHILD-to-child activities can be introduced:

  • by schoolteachers with schoolchildren,
  • by schoolchildren (who have practiced the activities in school) with younger schoolchildren, or with children who do not go to school,
  • by health workers or community rehabilitation workers,
  • by parent groups or any concerned persons in the community.

The purpose of CHILD-to-child activities that relate to disability is to help children:

  • gain awareness of different disabilities and what it might be like to be disabled,
  • learn that although a disabled person may have difficulty doing some things, she may be able to do other things extra well,
  • think of ways that they can help disabled children feel welcome, take part in their play, schooling, and other activities, and manage to do things better,
  • become the friends and defenders of any child who is different or has special needs.

Rehabilitation programs in several countries have developed their own, more complete CHILD-to-child activity sheets. Here we combine versions from Kenya (Africa), the Philippines, and Mexico (where some of the original sheets were developed and tested). The 3 activities we include in this chapter are:

This page was updated:27 May 2020