I was watching some TV with my children over half term, and we saw two programmes that starred people with Down’s Syndrome. We didn’t have time to finish the second programme, and my little boy was deeply concerned about the fate of the character. His mother had died, and my son could see that life wasn’t going to be straightforward for this man. I decided to see what happened on my own, then watch it together later on, just in case things didn’t turn out so well.
Having a disability
Our local swimming pool holds a couple of sessions a week for people with disabilities. They warm the pool up a few degrees, and restrict access to those with a disability of any form, plus their helpers or family. My daughter has a mild disability, and we like going to those sessions because the pool is much quieter.
We went to the Tuesday morning session in half term. We found that a friend we had made another time was there, and Martin* wanted to play ball games with my children. We spent about twenty minutes playing with him, and then went off for a proper swim. Martin came over to chat to us later, and I realised my little boy was upset. I wondered if it was because he was frightened of this adult who had a brain injury. It actually turned out that he was cross because Mummy was talking to someone that wasn’t him – again.
There is a movement that prefers the term “differently-abled”, and I think that description is great. While we were swimming, somehow everyone was even. It was only when some of the adults were taken out of the pool by a hoist and helped into wheelchairs that their impairments became noticeable.
I picked up a friend who happens to be blind this morning. As she turned around, I saw that she had a roller in the back of her hair. We joked about it, and she told me that there have been times when people felt it was kinder not to tell her such things. Did they think they were protecting her, or saving her from embarrassment? She would much rather be told than feel like people weren’t taking her seriously because she couldn’t see that her appearance was unusual that day.
When I was a child, I remember being frightened by people I perceived as being “different” because of a disability. I hope that by being in contact with differently-abled people, my children won’t have that fear.
We’re all different
My son, who is 6, has an interesting take on it. His sister may be officially classed as disabled, but he says everyone has something: he has asthma, and Mummy and Daddy wear glasses. If we look around, none of us are the same. We are all different threads in life’s rich tapestry. Take one of those threads away, and there is something missing from the whole. The picture is no longer complete.
I am relieved to say that when we watched the rest of the TV programme, my boy was comforted that the story of the man with Down’s Syndrome had a happy ending. I hope that we can all try to view the world through the eyes of someone who has a different ability to us. Just because my friend is blind doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the same hopes and fears that everyone else does. In her own way, she is as “normal” as you or I.
*not his real name
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