"Mom, Ben punched me at recess. But it's ok, I think He's in Elias' class."
Vitali was very matter of fact while he told me about the boy that was punching him and his friends at recess. I wasn't sure what he meant by "Elias' class," so I asked a few more questions.
"Was he a big kid or little like Elias?"
"Oh, he was big!"
"Well then he probably wasn't in Elias' class."
Vitali looked confused, and then it hit me: Vitali could tell that Ben had a learning disability. I asked him a few more questions.
"Did he look like Elias?"
"No, he just looked like a kid, but he played like Elias. Ya know mom, like how Elias likes to punch me sometimes, and I say 'No, Elias, now you get a hundred-minute timeout!'" We laughed, and Elias laughed with us.
I realized that day that I don't have to use words to teach Vitali about people who have a disability. He watches our acceptance and love for Elias and he never questions Elias' place in our family. And because he loves and accepts his brother no matter what, I think we are going to see Vitali love and accept others that are like Elias—no matter what. Even if it means a punch in the gut.
People ask how I explain to Vitali that Elias has Down syndrome. I tell them I haven't yet. And now I am more confident then ever that I won't have to explain much. The more I love and accept Elias (and others like him) the more Vitali will know how to love.
And for those of you who have asked me how to explain to your child about someone with a disability...It starts with you. Don't explain, but show your kids how to love and accept someone with a disability. They will copy you, and it will be beautiful.