The 3 main reactions to disability that I encounter every day
Posted on 6th April 2021 at 12:43
Did you know that there are over 11 million people with disabilities in the UK? That is one-sixth of the population in the UK.
How do you respond to disability?
1. Other peoples reaction to disability
The most upsetting reaction to disability for me is pity. Yes of course I appreciate that people feel sorry for someone who is wheelchair bound but pity isn’t necessary. My son, George, has a diagnosis of quadriplegic cerebral palsy and he is reliant on care 24/7.
George’s day to day life is affected but he is a happy and strong young man with an amazing personality. Pity is really not necessary, it’s just part of life. His life, my family’s life.
In all honesty, I can find find it hard to take George out even somewhere simple like the town centre. Why? Because 9 times out of 10 people will stare and stare. I suppose it’s human nature to stare.
When it’s a child staring I find it easier to forgive but when it’s an adult I find it quite disheartening. I even avoid going out with George sometimes. Going out alone can prove difficult enough but the addition of the staring and ignorance just adds to it.
2. A child's reaction to disablity
Children have a wonderful innocence about them, which I absolutely love.
I can remember being in a shop with George and a young boy of around four was with his mum. He looked at George and then said to his mum “Mummy why is that big boy in a buggy?” I smiled to myself, his mum on the other hand didn’t know which way to look and was mortified. I wanted to spare his poor mum because in truth her son’s approach was very refreshing. Therefore, I turned to the young lad and said “Because his legs aren’t as strong as yours”. He was more than satisfied with my response and off he went!
Most children who meet George engage with him immediately. They talk to him and approach him like any other person they encounter during life. Of course, they have questions and I welcome them and I always take the time to answer them.
Sensitivity and acceptance are as important as questions and engagement. All children accept George for who he is and don’t look at him any differently. A child will always consider George’s needs and will always ask what they can do to help him or want to know how to understand him.
3. What is my response?
My response is an automatic one, people are staring. I start to feel that people are looking at George in a negative way and he‘s being judged.
Maybe I need to loosen up more and not think that everyone is being so judgmental. Some people might not know how to approach it. They may want to say something but worry about not coming across in the right tone or manner. I need to appreciate that some people may worry about being offensive and I can completely accept this.
This is one of the reasons I started my photography business. One day George came home from school with his school photographs. I laughed and said to my husband “My goodness, what made George so miserable today?”
He was plonked in front of a background and the standard conveyer belt photo was taken. All I could see was his wheelchair. Not his lovely little smile or happy face, just the chair.
Then, I wondered, how many other parents and carers felt like this? We all just accept it because it is the way it is.
I have worked with many special needs schools or schools with children with learning difficulties. Families or staff members often apologise for a child’s behaviour or that they are not happy. I completely understand that people feel the need to apologise and I too am guilty of this.
However, there is no apology necessary as I understand that each child is different and everyone has their own level of needs. Hey, sometimes children without needs don’t play ball so let’s support each other as parents and acknowledge that!
So I ask you, what is your natural reaction to disability? Do you shy away from it? If so, why? As a parent I would love to know the why.
If you’re a parent or carer yourself what are your own experiences? I would love to know. I feel as parents and carers of someone who has a disability it’s good to share experiences and know if I’m alone or do you share my feelings on reactions to disability.
I'd welcome your feedback and comments below.
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