Mary Evelyn, What Do You Do Dear? - September 5, 2014
This is a terrific article with great advice for parents of disabled kids, and kids with disabilities themselves. Slack-jawed stares and uncomfortable questions are often the first and most frequent encounter disabled people have with the social stigma of disability. So, I would like to add four more suggestions for parents on how to help their children handle disability-related pointing, staring, and asking.
1. Age makes a difference ... the age of your child, and of the person doing the pointing, staring, or asking. If you child is older than the person asking the questions … if your child is a teen and the other kid is 5 years old … it's a good opportunity to help your disabled child take on age-appropriate responsibilities. Teach them that as the older child, they should be a little kinder and more forgiving to the younger child than they might want to be. Help them recognize situations where they can help make someone more comfortable with and respectful about disability.
2. Help your child recognize situations where frank disability questions are okay. For example: doctor’s appointments, certain educational settings (though not necessarily all of them), and dealing with police, firefighters, and EMTs.
3. Empower your child to establish appropriate personal boundaries. Teach them effective, constructive ways to respond when people cross those boundaries. Let your disabled child know they have a right to be treated respectfully, and that they don't have to put up with everything from everybody, even from adults, just because they have disabilities and need help and supports that most other people don’t. It’s good to be appropriately grateful. It’s dangerous to feel beholden.
4. Help your disabled child develop effective and efficient ways to explain their disabilities to others. Having a brief, straightforward answer to the most “frequently asked questions” can be practically helpful, and give one added confidence.