I know I’m guilty of having said it before. You see your kid staring at someone that is different. It might be a lady with no hair, someone of a different race, a person in a wheelchair, someone walking differently, or someone missing a limb. I’m guessing many of you have said that to your youngsters too. Why do we say that though? Yes… staring is rude. That is totally correct. But do we have to just say that?
Instead of that, what if we told them to wave hi? Or go and say hello? Or even just saying something like acknowledging that there is a difference but the person is still doing what everyone else is? If we do that, our kids will learn that even though someone is different, they are still just another person. And I use the word just intentionally. A lot of people just want to be “normal.”
Now, not everyone is ok with the attention. Some folks just want to be left alone. And that’s fine! We just need to read that persons body language. Are they smiling at your kid? Have them go up and say hi and even allow them to ask questions. Kids are curious. It’s how they learn about their world. Is the person avoiding eye contact? Acknowledge the difference and tell your child that you guys will talk about it later. And when you do talk, be honest and open.
I encourage questions. Not just from kids but adults also. I want people to ask me questions so that they learn more about amputations. I don’t consider any question off-limits and don’t find any offensive. (Although I’ve heard of adults asking people if their limb will grow back… 😒) We are starting a Disability Awareness Commission in my town. Just like the name says, one of our goals is to educate and raise awareness.
Again, not everyone you see will be comfortable with you asking questions. But some will be and we WANT you to ask. Ignorance is not an excuse and I don’t use ignorance in the condescending way. So if you see me out and about, another person that is “different”, or feel more comfortable from your couch on the interwebs, please ask. Or at the least, just say “Hello.”