While most parents worry about school supplies and bus schedules, parents of children with vitiligo have a whole different set of concerns when it comes to the school year. Author Lori Mitchell knows those concerns all too well – because she has a daughter with vitiligo too.
Author of the children’s book, “Different Just Like Me,” Lori has dedicated her career to writing and illustrating books and helping parents of children with vitiligo deal with the condition in schools. Today she speaks at schools and shares lesson plans on how to decrease bullying by increasing conversations about diversity.
We talked to Lori about how to handle vitiligo in school and she had six reminders for other parents of children with vitiligo:
It’s better to start the conversation early, before any bullying might start.
By starting the conversation early, you decrease the opportunities for bullying. Be open and upfront about your child’s vitiligo by answering questions and concerns right away. This eliminates misunderstanding and decreases the possibility of whispers and rumors.
Put your child first, and vitiligo second.
Putting your child as a person first is critical to addressing the subject in school. You want the children in school to accept your child as a person, not as a condition. Introduce your child to the class as just that – another person. It’s the difference between saying, “this is my daughter who is interested in soccer and reading, and happens to have spots,” instead of “this is my daughter with vitiligo.”
Understand that kids are just curious and want to know what vitiligo is.
For the most part, kids are innocent – they just want to know what vitiligo is. They’re curious to know why your child looks different from them. And once they know, they go right back to playing and forget that your child looks different from them. By addressing their curiosity upfront, you can head off most negative comments.
Vitiligo is part of a bigger conversation about diversity.
Vitiligo is one aspect of a larger conversation about diversity – and acceptance of diversity. Children in schools bring all sorts of conditions with them – mental and physical. By approaching the subject as a matter of diversity and acceptance, you can broaden the scope of the conversation and increase interest in finding solutions.
Parents of kids facing other issues will support you.
You aren’t alone in this – every parent wants their child to be accepted by their classmates. And chances are that other parents will be willing to help you raise awareness about acceptance and diversity within your school. Start the conversation with other parents and find out who is willing to raise awareness of diversity at your school. It could be as simple as reading a book to one class and then opening up a discussion about diversity. Or it could be more in-depth and they could bring in speakers and get a whole program of respect going in the whole school.
Lori has resources for parents of children with vitiligo.
In addition to information about the book Different Just Like Me, Lori has included multiple resources for the parents of kids with vitiligo on her website. Visit the site at http://www.differentjustlikeme.com/ or click below to visit any of the following resources:
You can also shop Living Dappled’s lunch box notes for kids with vitiligo, a digital download with 10 confidence-boosting messages.
Erika Page is the Founder and Editor of Living Dappled. After getting vitiligo at the age of seven, she lost 100% of her pigment to the condition and today lives with universal vitiligo.