Help me get it right.

Before you read this post, go read this one by my new friend Jeannett.  It’s about her daughter Jill,  and it’s the inspiration for what I’m about to say.

Ok, are you back?  Did you need to go get a tissue? (Or don’t you have a soul!?)

One thing that my whole experience with Sophie’s developmental delays has brought to my life is a sensitivity for people with disabilities, and their families. Especially their moms.  Seeing your kid looked at as “different” is hard.  Sophie only got weird looks because of sometimes-crazy behavior, as she is phyiscally “normal”.  And that was bad enough.  To watch the gawking or ignoring that kids and adults with obvious physical disabilities endure is very unsettling.  To be a parent or loved one having to watch your kid get gawked at?  I truly cannot imagine.

Because Sophie used to see kids with all kinds of disabilities at her therapy clinics or at her school, she treats a kid in a wheelchair or walker, or a child with Down Syndrome the same as all her other friends.  It’s awesome to watch. There was a girl at school and a boy at OT that she especially like to keep tabs on. I can only hope she doesn’t lose that as she continues on to “regular” kindergarten.  I know, as an adult, that I KNOW BETTER, and I know that I need to teach my children early to KNOW BETTER and to DO BETTER.  Sophie’s got it, but I need to teach my boys.  To be the one that treats everyone with kindness and respect.  To look someone in the eye. To smile.  To hold a door, or a conversation, whether that person is in a wheelchair, on a walker, has a mental disability, or whatever.

I love my kids. I love them just the way they are.  They are mine.  And you know what? If Sophie’s delays hadn’t been temporary, she would still be my amazing, wonderful, rock-star daughter.  I never wanted her to be anything different than what God made her to be.  And I wouldn’t want to be treated as if either a) she didn’t exist or b) she should be avoided like the plague or c) I should be pitied because of my poor, disabled child.

Would you ?

Tell me, if you have a disability, or your child or loved one does, or you’ve worked with people with disabilities, what do you want us “typicals” out there to know and do?  Help us get it right.  Let’s learn together how to love one another better.


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  1. I worked at a High School for several years with kids who had Emotional and Behavioral Disorders. Kids are kids, some just have more challenges.

    And as Mom/Grandma always said, “People just need to let children be children.”


  2. I’ve taught my kids to ask questions if they are curious. I do that as well. My grandma still says it’s better to ask and be told it’s none of your business than to stare and wonder. Good advice and I’ve never been told it’s none of my business. LOL

  3. My nephew is 10 yrs old and has Autism. I have to say one of the most hurtful things for my sister n law to endure is people who look at him like he has a plague. He loves to go up to strangers and hold there hand or touch them. (He’s very friendly for a child with Autism) He’s considered non verbal because he says very few words right now so he makes a lot of noises. I guess this can make people uncomfortable, but he’s so sweet. We just wish people would stop and recognize that he’s a person too and he won’t hurt them. Take time so smile and say hi! He does understand you!

  4. My youngest sister is 31 and is mentally handicapped. She has the mentality of a 2-year old. Growing up, people treated us almost as outcasts because of her delays. We couldn’t do near as much as other families – my mom couldn’t take her to church since there was never nursery workers to keep watch over a teenager who acted like a toddler.

    Don’t treat the families any different. It’s OK to ask about the disability. And please don’t pity us whatsoever. I’ve found that my mother has so much strength as a result of having a child with disabilities – her strength is hardly anything that’s to be pitied or feel sorry for.

    I’m glad my boys see the difference with my sister and have compassion for it. I take every opportunity I can get to explain things to them but they still even look and wonder why others are different, which I think is normal. I encourage them to talk to me when they see someone as different from them so we can immediately talk about the situations and learn more about that person’s uniqueness (which we all have).

  5. In college, I worked at a sheltered workshop for developmentally disabled adults. That included taking my group on different activities around town: teaching them to use the bus, how to grocery shop, how to use the bank, eat in a restaurant, etc.

    Many times, I’d find my blood pressure spiking when we encountered rude people who felt like our presence (always coordinated with the particular business in advance) was somehow ruining THEIR experience, as if buying a bus ticket or grabbing a shopping cart entitled them to a noise-free, speedy experience without having to look at people with Down’s Syndrome or CP. I’d get angry as all get out, and that brought out my protective instincts, needless to say.

    But over time I also learned that it was important to smile and nod at the people who WEREN’T bothered, who didn’t stare but were polite and quite often downright friendly. They need encouragement, so they know that pleasantness really is the right way to act. And the others need to see that, too. It reminds them to demonstrate good manners, and it communicates a societal expectation.

    You wouldn’t believe how many times I saw someone who’d been staring and gawking turn their behavior around and become polite, if not outright friendly, after seeing others behave that way.

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