SOCIAL MEDIA THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE
Fourteen years ago, I gave birth to my third son, Chazz Bethea. Born at just 24 weeks gestation due to a ruptured placenta, Chazz suffered a serious brain injury that resulted in Cerebral Palsy (pronounced seh-ree-brel pawl-zee) characterized by a severe loss and impairment of his motor functions and developmental abilities. The news was beyond heartbreaking and I initially I felt like my world was crashing in.
I quickly learned firsthand how much it hurts to not have your child well-received by peers because of their physical and/or mental limitations. Glances, stares and insensitive remarks sometimes seemed unbearable. I knew I had to do something about this—not sure exactly what at the time—but something.
Discovering Empathy and Understanding
I first began promoting love and acceptance for Chazz at home with my own children, as well as family and friends. I came to the hard realization that meeting people who are different–whether from another cultural background, a person with a physical deformity, or with obvious special needs--can more often than not be particularly frightening for a child.
For this very reason, I founded The Polka Dot Project, a non-profit dedicated to raise awareness and celebrate people with special needs, and foster acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities into their communities.
I also realized that there is no better way to shape and mold the thinking of people than through social media and entertainment. Therefore, I did it– I took a chance and reached out to Justin K. McClure of the McClure Twins Family and gave him a synopsis of The Polka Dot Project.
Immediately, he was taken with our mission, and wanted to help! Justin offered to devote a special episode of his series The Discovery Twins on Facebook Watch to help his own four-year-old girls learn about people who are different than themselves in the special needs community. He and his wife Ami Dunni McClure are supporters of The Polka Dot Project and are already using their social platform to spread awareness about our mission.
“He’s So Scary”
As you can see in the video on Facebook, when the girls first met Chazz, they were both intimidated by his physical appearance. Little Ava McClure was terrified at first and her twin sister Alexis McClure was cautious and expressed a strong sense of confusion and concern for him. Like most kids (and often adults), they simply did not know to process their deep emotional feelings. After talking with them, and explaining how Chazz lives and thinks, they realized they had many things in common, like a love of music, and coloring and going to the park to swing on the swings.
Teach the Children Well
So, how do we talk with our children about people who are different? Speaking from experience both personally and professionally, here are a few tips that can help:
Talk with your child: The first step is to start a gentle and open dialogue with your child. Observe their physical and oral social cues and encourage them to express how they feel about what they are experiencing when they encounter someone with special needs.