It’s rude to stare!

Joshua should continue to grow into a tall,slim young man as he is already 5 foot 8 at 14 years old. His posture is reasonably good and I used to wonder how strangers knew my son was disabled, when he wasn’t wearing his helmet or in his wheelchair. Yesterday morning I watched a TV programme where mothers were asking the public not to stare at their physically disabled children, and I can relate to their feelings.

Joshua sparks off something in other children, my husband thinks it is fear that they too may become wheelchair bound or ‘poorly’ but  young children show no embarrassment at staring at Joshua with their mouths hanging open. When Joshua stares at a pretty lady in a lift, as he often does, I make a joke or remark about it to break the tension but these other children’s parents never show the same embarrassment. It seems to me that the next step to staring is bullying, which thankfully Joshua has never been a victim of.

The closest he got to being bullied was at mainstream school when a crowd of older children gathered around him. They were enjoying asking him to say things so that they could imitate him and laugh at his expense. This was one of the instances that told me that Joshua needed to move on to a special school even though he was enjoying the game, it looked too much like a freak show for me to feel comfortable with it

. A special swimming teacher was once insulting when she said ” I like his new haircut, you would hardly know about his problems would you” then she made it worse by saying “what a shame with him being so handsome too!” I reported her inappropriate comments to the management of a local authority leisure centre and she no longer teaches children with special needs. sometimes people simply do not realise what they have said and it is not meant with any malice.

i believe that one of the benefits to our family of having Joshua, is that we have become much more comfortable generally around disability. I used to be very uncomfortable around young people who were older than Joshua as I was not really sure how to handle them, as opposed to young children. I volunteered to help at school on my Friday afternoons off and the Headteacher, very astutely, suggested that I help in class 11 which was full of a gifted class of 15 and 16 year olds. I was intimidated at first as they were mostly taller than me and showed unpredictable behaviour, but over the two years that I helped out with that class, I became very fond and protective of these boys. They are all in the sixth form now so I rarely see them, but when I do, they still smile and say ‘ it’s Joshua’s mum!’, which gives me a warm glow.

so please just spare a thought for the fillings of those you are staring at next time, as these are your fellow human beings and they deserve your sympathy and respect but not your pity!

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