Today on facebook a friend of mine whose brother is in a wheelchair, posted that she wishes parents would teach thier children (toddlers not included) to not stare at those who are different.
I just had a conversation with my inlaws last night about a young boy who had been set on fire in another country, Americans raised money for his family to move here and go to school here. They were asking him about making friends and although he looks different he had no problems making friends but said when his friends ask what happened to him he tells them.
My father in law stated that he just wouldn't want ask. And I thought about this. I would also NOT WANT TO ASK, and so I started thinking about that. Why would I not ask? My sister is missing a limb and I remember my mom getting so aggravated at adults that would just stare and look at her like it was all her fault, when she was born that way. I also have a developmentally delayed child that acts a little "odd" in social situations, as well as what others would consider "rude and disrespectful" to me. I have been told I need to spank him, I need to punish him, I need to beat him, he's out of control, by strangers no less. People that don't know anything about me or him and think that he's a product of a lack of discipline, which I assure you is NOT the issue.
And I can understand, I can understand in our world of being our kids friends before being thier parent why strangers would assume this, but wouldn't I rather they have a conversation with me before making thier assumptions? Of course I would! So back to my thinking of "Why would I not ask about a child with a disability? Why would I just stare?" I was trained this way. Not out of ugliness but just out of my parents trying to teach me not to be rude. I was taught not to stare at people that were different. I think in my mind that meant to ignore the fact that they were different. It's human curiousity that we want to know and understand. So by being taught that asking was rude, I myself have learned to not ask. I think we assume that in by not staring, and not asking, we are being nice, when the truth is we are just not acknowledging the fact that something is different.
Let me clue you in... they know they are different, if they don't know, their parents KNOW they are different. As a parent of someone that is developmentally delayed I want to encourage you, if you are curious, to ASK! I want to encourage you, to encourage your children to ASK! As a parent I feel better knowing that people know my child is different and asking questions to better understand the disability than to NOT ask and pretend nothing is wrong and not know how to deal with it, so you get frustrated with the individual. You are NOT going to offend a parent of a child in a wheelchair by asking why they are in a wheelchair, and definately not an adult. They KNOW they are in a wheelchair and just like anyone else, we like to talk about ourselves. Not to mention by educating you, you know have a better understanding of what their condition is and what life to them is like.
Okay so some of you are saying, "Brandie, I understand if they are in a wheelchair, missing a limb, have a severe scar from a traumatic event, but what about the mentally handicapp, those that are like your son, look like the rest of us but just aren't quite there. I don't want to offend someone if there is in fact nothing wrong with them", and I get that. Let me let you in on a little secret. If you spend enough time with someone, it's so much a part of thier life and who they are, they will let you know. And probably if you are spending time with them you weren't staring in the beginning. Parents love talking about thier kids so more than likely it will come up in conversation and then you can proceed to ask questions. Or you can preference it by saying, "I have a question, but I don't want to offend you". Then they know it's coming from a place of interest versus are you sure nothing is wrong with your kid...
Being that have a develop mentally delayed child and typical children, I don't think I would be offended if someone asked me if Addie (my typical child) had an issue. I would simply reply "no" and be done with it. However I absolutely welcome questions, even strangers questions about Cade.
I think ultimately, I want to teach my children tolerance. I know people are going to be ugly, they are going to isolate my children, becuase don't we ALL experience that? and even more so when you are challenged in some way? And there is nothing I can do about how others treat my child, but I can teach my children how to react, and to be different! To be the good! To accept ALL people regardless. That doesn't mean they have to be best friends, it doesn't mean they have to be friends at all. It doen't mean they have to agree on all issues, or think the same way. It just means that no matter what, they will be nice to them, they will greet them with a smile, they will show them Jesus. A Jesus they may never see or hear about otherwise!