Today we took our LG to her new nursery which she will be starting in the new term, it is now her second visit and she was straight in playing, colouring, chatting with her new teachers and so on, she is a chatterbox and it was pleasing to see her settled and I hope the transition when she starts goes so smoothly.
One interesting thing occurred whilst we were waiting to be let through to the nursery, I was in my wheelchair and there was a mum and a little girl behind me and I could hear the LG asking “mummy why’s he in that” to which the answer came “he is” well we all know that, that answer will not be good enough for the inquisitive mind of a 3/4/5 year old and sure enough the same question and answer came. I was talking to my wife and LG but you couldn’t miss it and again the question came and the same answer was given. I understand why the mum was saying/doing it. I mean she doesn’t know me (well I recognised her but cannot place her exactly, I think she was in my older brother’s year and her mum may have been a gumby but don’t quote me on it), she doesn’t know the response it might be, the circumstances, how long ago it happened and therefore if I was at peace with the circumstances and so on and so many children do not see disabled people that they do not feel confident asking. My LG she steams right in and says if she prefers my wheelchair or others and the differences and the like, but she’s grown up with disability. In the end I turned to the LG and said I have a poorly back so my legs don’t work very well. Her mummy repeated it and said there you go and that was the end of the conversation. I spent time this afternoon wondering how if the roles had been reversed I would have handled it. The truth is I do not know, there is no right way of approaching a disabled person and going “so what happened to you” but it is what children naturally do, they are learning constantly and want answers to new experiences.
When does our moral compass change to say it is wrong to ask those questions?
It is also this sort of reaction that is why as Wymondham Access Group develops I hope that we will be able to go into schools and spend time educating children and helping them experience life with a disability and reinforcing that behind every disability is a person like you and me.
Having thought about how to respond I would give this advice to parents/carers/adults who will find themselves in similar “awkward” situations as the lady did today because you can guarantee we fine tune into these conversations so easily and perhaps the best response would be to say to your child
“they have either been injured/hurt or may have a disability and perhaps they will tell you a bit more about it”
That way if like me today I was happy to share information the person in the wheelchair can respond and if they don’t want to hopefully you will have given your child enough information to stop them asking over and over, and if by some strange way this blog reaches you, know I wasn’t upset or offended by your LG today or indeed how you dealt with it, I hope you too were OK with my reply.
I know this will not always be the “right” thing to do and perhaps you judge the scenario but today in the waiting area of a school to see a nursery it was a safe environment. The vast amount of disabled people I know are more than happy to share their story, it is ok to ask questions and they will if they can respond in a way to educate children and if you stop prejudices when they are 3 or 4 it is far easier than trying to do it at 23 or 24!