‘Mommy that boy is in a wheel chair!’ a child of three, maybe four pointed in our direction as she blurted out the obvious fact to her Mother that Devlin is in a wheel chair.
Her mothers response was to quickly shush her and I could hear Mom telling her that what she did was rude and that she shouldn’t do things like that.
I know that her Mom was trying to teach her daughter not to make a big deal out of disabled people, but I think that she handled it poorly.
I walked over and told Mom that it was perfectly fine, her daughter was right, Devlin is in a wheel chair. I know that little girl wasn’t saying anything out of malice or spite, she wasn’t trying to be hurtful. She was trying to understand something that she most likely had never been exposed to before in her life.
I talked to the little girl and told her she was right, Devlin is in a chair. I asked her if she wanted to know why and she smiled at me and I could see that’s all she had wanted in the first place. Like a child she’d turned to her Mom to get her to explain something in the world that she just didn’t understand, sadly Mom couldn’t help her because Mom had no idea why.
Mom, in her attempt to teach her daughter failed. All she managed to teach her daughter was that seeing disabled people in public is an embarrassing thing and that her daughter should feel shame for being curious about why they are disabled, and let’s be honest here, I’m betting Mom was curious why Dev was in that chair too but she’d never admit it because she’d been taught the same lesson that she’d been teaching to her daughter. So, like so many in society they don’t ‘see’ disabled people because they are too embarrassed to even look in their direction for fear of being accused of staring.
I decided that I needed to talk to that girl, to teach her that Devlin is just like any other boy out there, he just has trouble getting his muscles to listen to his brain, and that’s exactly what I told her. She had such a big smile on her face as I talked to her. She said hi to Dev, and he waved at her with a huge smile on his face. She held his hand briefly before Mom said they had to hurry off.
Children never come up and say Hi to Devlin, when we go to the park the kids all hang together, but they avoid Devlin because he’s different and strange and the kids just don’t understand him. Perhaps they are scared of him too, since he is different.
Maybe, instead of teaching our children not to look, if we taught them to approach it may make this world a better place.
When you sit there and pretend not to see, we see you and it’s as awkward as staring. Just walk up and say Hi, just like you would anyone else.