Saturday, June 2, 2012
How do YOU address a child with special needs?
Do you smile at them? Do you say"hello"? Do you address their caregiver instead? Do you pretend not to see them at all?
Sometimes well-meaning people lose sight of boundaries and common sense. Today, for example, I was at the grocery store with Lucien and his 7 year old sister. We decided to use his gait trainer rather than the wheelchair on this particular excursion. Just after we arrived and entered the store we stepped off to the side so I could correct an adjustment on the gait trainer. I finished and as we prepared to re-enter the "flow of traffic" a woman headed out of the store put her hand on Lucien's shoulder and giving it a little squeeze said,"Awww, baby." I was furious! This was not a friend or even an acquaintance. This woman was a complete stranger to myself and my children. The fact that my son is disabled does not negate his right to dignity and respect. I didn't see her lay her hand on any other child's shoulder. Maybe because common sense dictates that we don't go around touching children that we don't know. This is the least of my anger. Lucien is not a baby. He'll be 10 in a few days. He does not appreciate being referred to as baby or a baby. Lucien is not pathetic. He doesn't need or want the sympathy or pity of that woman or anyone else.
This stranger saw Lucien and in that instant concluded that he was pitiful. Why? Because he was using a walker? Because he has CP? Lucien doesn't feel sorry for himself. If you asked him, he'd probably tell you he's got it pretty good. He has a family who loves and supports him. He has wonderful friends who include him in everything they do. He has a lot more than many kids his age. In fact, by far, the worse thing that happened to Lucien today was that a stranger put their hands on him in a way that frightened him. He though this woman was trying to snatch him from the store. A single touch, by a well-meaning stranger, erased his sense of safety.