I’m no stranger to doing it, but having to explain my disability to complete strangers is something I struggled with for a long time. Intriguingly, speaking to children about my disability has never really been an issue, but something has always irritated me when adults ask questions. In my experience there is often a lack of common sense and respect.
It’s been a learning experience for me just as much as it has been for those curious individuals I’ve encountered over the years. My own maturity and self-awareness have directly impacted some of the answers I’ve given people. And I’m embarrassed to admit that on numerous occasions I’ve been very abrupt in my responses.
I appreciate that most of the time adults try to be respectful with their words, however it’s often their body language I find most disconcerting. Adults in particular often appear awkward and uneasy when asking me questions about my disability. Or, they simply don’t ask, and instead there is an awkward lingering silence. I can’t control any of that, all I can do is make people feel at ease, by respectfully responding and showing them that disability isn’t something to fear.
Want to know the right way to ask questions? Jessica explains on the This Glorious Mess podcast:
As a mother I want my children to grow up eager to learn and discover difference, not just the differences they see in people, but the differences they see in art, science, sport and technology. This will only happen if I lead by example, showing them through my own actions and behaviours that differences are not ‘good’ or ‘bad’ they simply just are what they are.
I want to teach all children that disability is not something to be afraid of, but rather something augmenting. Disability is a difference that is inherently complex but absolutely worth learning about.