I don’t have a lot of experience with disabled kids, or disabled adults either for that matter. When I was in elementary and high school there was a special ed class at my school, but most of us rarely had any contact with those students at all. And if I’m being completely honest here, I’m not totally comfortable when I’m in a situation that throws me into close contact with a disabled person, because of my lack of experience. Now of course, I’m talking about people who are dealing with an obvious, visible disability. My boyfriend technically has a disability, and some would argue that with an invisible chronic illness I do as well, but in both cases it’s nothing you can see by looking at us.
Here’s where I’m going with this. Yesterday was November 1, the day after Halloween. When I got to work in the morning I logged on to TweetDeck and looked over the tweets I missed overnight, as I always do. A blogger that I follow, Tanis (known as the Redneck Mommy), had sent out several tweets that really touched my heart. You see, Tanis has a young son who is disabled. He was abused as a baby and as a result is physically and mentally handicapped. What she was tweeting about was her experience taking her three children trick or treating. (She also wrote about their evening here.) Her youngest son, known as Jumby, can’t eat candy because he has to be fed through a tube, but of course she still wanted to include him in the holiday and the family outing. But many people in her town wouldn’t give Jumby any candy. They didn’t see the point, since he couldn’t eat it. They wouldn’t speak to him or interact with him, choosing instead to pretend he wasn’t there.
What would I have done if this family came to my house on Halloween? I hope I would have come down the steps with candy for Jumby and spoken to him just like I would have to any other child. And because I feel I know this family through reading the blog, I’m pretty confident that I would have done that. But what if I didn’t know the family? Would I have been able to get over my own discomfort long enough to think of that child who deserves to be treated like any other child, that mother who longs to see her baby included, accepted and loved for the sweet child he is? I wish I could say I would, but I’m afraid I might not.
This is something I’ve thought about on occasion, especially when reading the Redneck Mommy’s blog or others like it. I don’t think anyone expects to parent a child with special needs, but those babies are born every day. There’s no reason I couldn’t someday find myself in that situation. What would I do? How would I handle it? I’m sure I would love my baby for the mere fact that he was my baby. But how would I cope with the added stress, the extra difficulties that come with caring for a special needs child? How would I react when someone ignored or mistreated my child because he wasn’t what they expected to see?
I just don’t know. But what I do know is that things like this shouldn’t happen. In this day and age our society ought to be more enlightened than this. All children ought to find love and acceptance, because there’s plenty of time for them to grow up and learn that the world isn’t always a nice place, especially when you’re different.