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Has this happened to you? How did you handle it?


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#1 EBKatie

Posted 16 August 2013 - 11:38 AM

"A few months ago the kids and I were parked near the local supermarket. It was a warm day and the car windows were down. A woman in a wheelchair came out of the shop. My son spotted her and exclaimed very loudly: “Why can’t that woman walk?” Horrified, I berated him with such venom he burst into tears.
"Later he asked me why I was so angry. I explained that he could hurt the woman’s feelings and make her very sad. “Why?” he asked, “is not walking a bad thing?” And then the penny dropped. All my son did was find someone outside his visual experience interesting. What I did was make the women’s disability something to be pitied or ashamed of. It was deeply ableist."
Victoria Birch went on to find out how to answer children's questions about differences without encouraging pity or exclusion.

http://www.essential...0816-2s0e2.html

Has this happened to you? How did you handle it?

#2 sāta kōrsa

Posted 16 August 2013 - 11:54 AM

Despite the fact that I occasionally use a wheelchair, DS has still done this in public.  And very loudly too, as most children do.  

I always smile slightly apologetically at the person, then explain to DS that some people's legs don't work or that some people are like Mummy and can't walk for a long time and need a bit of help.

I don't understand making a big song and dance about it.  It's no big deal, really.

#3 Tinky Winky Woo

Posted 16 August 2013 - 11:58 AM

I am the same with my explanation that the person's legs may not work properly.  It is for our kids not about the disability it is about the interest in the chair as such.  They just see a person overall.

#4 Liv_DrSperm_sh

Posted 16 August 2013 - 01:52 PM

there is a young girl who gets picked up for school on our way to preschool, she's got very severe cerebral palsy and is in a wheelchair.

DS loudly asked what that was all about and for a good while I was stumped at what to say...I didn't want to say that she was special or that she couldn't do stuff because i felt that would be rude, and untrue. So I told him that her legs didn't work the same as his legs so she got wheels.

Well the next minute he's running off to her asking whether he could try her wheels... and then helping the dude get her into the school van. I was rather mortified, but nobody seemed offended... the mouths of babes huh!

#5 Dirtsa

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:10 PM

recently we had an interaction with someone who DS1 thought "looked funny". When this person spoke to him ("Ok mate, you ready for your x-ray?") DS stared at him for a few seconds and then said straight to his face in a quiet voice "your head looks a bit funny". The man said "what's that mate?" DS started repeating his statement and by then I was cutting this conversation short! The man turned and walked to lead the way. I don't know if he actually heard DS or what but he didn't seem to react badly - actually didn't seem to react at all. I had again to explain to DS1 that you don't say everything that you think about someone out loud, especially if you are most likely going to offend them or hurt their feelings. I feel like he actually doesn't quite get the concept of offence and of offending someone, but thankfully he hasn't done this too many times. I guess he learns by trial and error?

#6 Cuddlesnkisses

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:11 PM

I tend to point it out to DD before she mentions anything.  The conversation goes along the lines of, do you see that person in a chair, one leg, one arm, little person ect why do you think that is? Do you think they are the same as me and you inside? Do you think they can do the same things we can?  End result of our conversations is that we are all the same, that we can all do the same things if we try and that for some people, it just means that they have to try harder, but that they are still the same as us.

I've always done this, and I don't thinks she actually sees anyone as different anymore.

#7 Feral-as-Meggs

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:14 PM

I wonder whether the author really did berate her child "with such venom he burst into tears".  I hope not.  Most people know little kids say things like that.

#8 Jax12

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:23 PM

I haven't had DS ask about a person in a wheelchair before - just once he excitedly squealed and pointed out a woman with blue hair.  I really hope I would react calmly and explain, as PPs have, that not all people's bodies work the same as his.

I wonder how old the OP's son was.  Seems like an OTT reaction to a genuine question asked out of curiosity.

I'd much prefer DS to ask why someone's not walking than to point out someone for being "fat" like I've heard my DN do.

#9 Let-it-go

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:24 PM

View Postmeggs1, on 16 August 2013 - 02:14 PM, said:

I wonder whether the author really did berate her child "with such venom he burst into tears".  I hope not.  Most people know little kids say things like that.
I know, right!  I can hardly take this article seriously.  Of course kids ask questions about things like this.  I am not the most patient mother in the world, but it had never crossed my mind to 'berate' a child for asking a curious question.

Edited by Ehill, 16 August 2013 - 02:26 PM.


#10 Alacritous~Andy

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:43 PM

My DS saw a man at the shop with a metal prosthetic leg.  He loudly proclaimed, "Holy moley, Mum, that bloke's a robot!"

It took me a second to process, as I hadn't heard him use the word "bloke" before.

I just said, "I don't think he is a robot, but he does have a pretty cool leg, doesn't he?"

Meanwhile, the bloke in question was p*ssing himself laughing, and said, "Well, that's a new one."

#11 Lyra

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:45 PM

Because of the nature of my son's condition my daughter notices wheelchairs etc and will point them out as being the same, similar, different etc. Also, because we go to events where there are large groups of children with disabilities she sees a wide range of things eg pumps, suction machines etc etc. She asks questions and if I can I answer if I don't know then I tell her 'I really don't know' and she accepts that
If she gets to staring too hard or asking questions too loudly I gently remind how she feels if people stare at/ask too many questions about her brother

Edited by Lyra, 16 August 2013 - 02:47 PM.


#12 Jingleflea

Posted 16 August 2013 - 02:58 PM

My 3yr old has pointed at people in wheel chairs and I just say that they might not be able to walk. She accepts it without any question. In the early days I likened it to her and her stroller. She could understand sitting in a stroller because she was too little to walk far and got tired easily etc.
I am a bit horrified at the original woman who reacted so strongly. The kid asked a simple question FFS. Didn't need to come down on him like a ton of bricks.

#13 EsmeLennox

Posted 16 August 2013 - 03:09 PM

The kid was fine - normal curiosity. The parenting = fail.

She should have written an article about her crap parenting skills.



#14 VintageEyes

Posted 16 August 2013 - 03:13 PM

DS has a fasination with anything with wheels, and as a toddler always used to get excited when he saw someone in a wheelchair. I would sometimes give an apology(when in close proximity) but I think his big excited grin always did most of the talking anyway.

#15 Ianthe

Posted 16 August 2013 - 03:19 PM

We were at Woolies once and a lady with dwarfism came in and I could see my then 5 yo daughter just staring and I just knew she was going to say something so I leaned down and whispered don't say anything. Anyway the lady moved on and we went outside and Freya said "why is she little". I said that some people don't grow and she was a dwarf'. Freya looked at me with wide eyes and a huge smile and said "are dwarfs real!?" She was so excited, she thought they were like fairies.

Then because I had told her not to say anything she said "why are you not allowed to talk in front of them?" LOL
I just explained when people are different lots of people probably look at them and sometimes say things and that would be annoying.

#16 nup

Posted 16 August 2013 - 03:19 PM

I have prominent scarring and little children are always asking me about it. The most uncomfortable I can feel is when parents shame their children for asking and I've experienced several "friends" telling their little ones off for asking, as if it's something to ignore. Pretty hard to ignore and pretend it's not there.

#17 liveworkplay

Posted 16 August 2013 - 03:22 PM

I have found that kids are very accepting differences. If my kids point out someone who is different, I just explain why if I can or say I don't really know. My 4 year old has a girls who has cerebral palsy and is non verbal and needs walking and sitting aids in her room at daycare. She is just treated as one of the kids (she has a full time carer) None of the "see" her differences, MissM is just MissM. Same with my 9 year old. They have a classmate who has autism. He, again, is non verbal etc etc and he is just one of the gang. These kids have had Master N in their class since kinder and I honestly do not think they even notice his uniqueness. It is the adults who tend to make a song and dance over things thus creating awkwardness and embarrassment in a situation that need not be either.

Edited by liveworkplay, 16 August 2013 - 03:23 PM.


#18 Acidulous Osprey

Posted 16 August 2013 - 05:45 PM

View PostCuddlesnkisses, on 16 August 2013 - 02:11 PM, said:

I tend to point it out to DD before she mentions anything.  The conversation goes along the lines of, do you see that person in a chair, one leg, one arm, little person ect why do you think that is? Do you think they are the same as me and you inside? Do you think they can do the same things we can?  End result of our conversations is that we are all the same, that we can all do the same things if we try and that for some people, it just means that they have to try harder, but that they are still the same as us.

I've always done this, and I don't thinks she actually sees anyone as different anymore.

I would really hope you do this out of earshot of the PWD.

#19 cinnabubble

Posted 16 August 2013 - 06:05 PM

View Postfiftyshadesofgreymatter, on 16 August 2013 - 05:45 PM, said:

I would really hope you do this out of earshot of the PWD.

Oh, I'm sure everybody appreciates being the object lesson for a small child -- "see that fat lady over there? she feels the same inside as you and me - it's just further to go to get to her insides". Charming and educational.

#20 PooksLikeChristmas

Posted 16 August 2013 - 06:11 PM

DS is too young to ask questions, but I've been in this situation as a babysitter of a 4 year old. I just said "yes, some people have "xyz difference", everyone is different aren't they" and we carried on. I'd have been happy to keep talking about differences between people but she was happy with my answer. I think that it's normal to notice difference, but it's not normal to make a big fuss of those sorts of questions or rant about how we're all same on the inside etc.

#21 CallMeFeral

Posted 16 August 2013 - 06:24 PM

I'm ok with how to answer these questions (normally with something along the lines of 'everybody is different') type thing, but I must say I'm befuddled by how to prevent my kids from making embarrassing statements in front of the people concerned.
I don't know how to tell them "you don't SAY THAT to people!" Say what? What is it ok to say? Why is it only when it's a disability that you don't say it, as opposed to when the person has a cute dog? Isn't that itself marking it out as a negative thing?

So I have struggled with what to tell them in terms of when they have to wait till they are not in front of the person to ask me. I guess as a society we consider it rude to bring up weaknesses, not strengths (fair call). But when to kids, it's all just 'differences' - I don't really want to teach them that those things are considered weaknesses...

#22 CallMeFeral

Posted 16 August 2013 - 06:26 PM

View PostCuddlesnkisses, on 16 August 2013 - 02:11 PM, said:

I tend to point it out to DD before she mentions anything.  The conversation goes along the lines of, do you see that person in a chair, one leg, one arm, little person ect why do you think that is? Do you think they are the same as me and you inside? Do you think they can do the same things we can?  End result of our conversations is that we are all the same, that we can all do the same things if we try and that for some people, it just means that they have to try harder, but that they are still the same as us.

I've always done this, and I don't thinks she actually sees anyone as different anymore.

You actually single people out, before your DD has noticed them as being different, and point out their differences just to lecture about being the same on the inside?
Do you think an amputee really can do the same things as an olympic runner?

I may be misunderstanding the message here...

#23 Soontobegran

Posted 16 August 2013 - 07:16 PM

I can't believe a parent would berate a child who is simply expressing their curiosity?

I think that the issue is more with the adult because the person who has raised the child's interest is probably far better at handling the questions of inquisitive children than you'd think. It is their life, they get used to it.

My DD1 when about aged 3 asked a man in who was in a wheelchair who had an above knee amputation " Where did your leg go? " He looked at her and smiled and said it was sick so the doctor took it to make him better.
She wasn't fazed, neither was he and no way did I think I should have told her off for noticing and saying something.

#24 The 8th Plum

Posted 16 August 2013 - 07:30 PM

What kids notice can be unpredictable. I don't mind what DS asks questions about, I'm just trying to get him to ask me discreetly if we are in public and he has a question about another person. I told him it's like feeling shy, sometimes people don't like being looked at or talked about, just like when he doesn't want strangers to notice him. It seems to be slowly sinking in. I'd never berate him for asking though, that says more about the parent than the child.

#25 Tetinks

Posted 16 August 2013 - 07:39 PM

Little kids always ask about my DD's hearing aids. It doesn't bother me at all (she is too little to realize) as I get that it's interesting to see a young baby with hearing aids. What p*sses me off is (usually) the parents' reactions. I hate the pity and I hate the sympathetic looks. I've also been told her hearing impairment is 'a shame' and 'at least she's cute'. Those parents copped an earful.




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