As a carer to this young man, Paul, with complex Special Needs, I'm regularly (translated: ALWAYS) banging on about how the public react when we are out together. But hey...we don't care, most of the time. It's understandable and actually a lot more acceptable than years gone by when kids and young adults like Paul were kept very much out of sight. So in actual fact, perhaps we should wave a little flag and say "hooray for progress!"
Today I took my 3 year old granddaughter Michaela out with Paul. Of course, those who already know my family will know that she is the younger sister of Daniel, my cheeky 8 year old grandson who has Downs Syndrome. Even though she doesn't understand nor question the reason why some people need to be assisted in their mobility, thankfully she is neither fazed or frightened by this mode of transport. We trailed around a massive store today looking at all the Christmas trees and sparkling lights. She was running ahead of the wheelchair and turning around calling out to Paul "come catch me!" Hahaha! He got very animated (LOUD) and lifted his fist to 'chastise' her in a mocking way but was clearly loving the attention and her silliness. She stood waiting until the chair reached her tiptoes then giggled and turned on her heels to start the game over again. When it came time to go and have some lunch...or "yunch" in Michaela speak...I parked Paul's chair at a table where I had a good view of both of them while I waited in a queue to get the goodies. I watched as Michaela NEVER stopped talking and Paul gazed at her as if only her words mattered. Then she disappeared under the table to 'hide'. I could see Paul getting flustered, trying to tell her to get up off the floor. "Aine!" he shouted, looking over at me and pointing a waggy finger in her direction as if to inform me of her bad behaviour. I waved my hand calmly to let him know it's all okay and that she is only playing. She popped up on the opposite side of his chair from where she disappeared a moment ago and shouted "Peek a boo Paul!" He howled with laughter and quite loudly stated "ya bugga!" Translate that as you will...he's allowed to express himself in any way he likes! Michaela squealed and soon I was able to join them at the table and calm this pair down and finally have a quiet(ish) lunch.
Michaela is fortunate to be brought up in a family where disability is not an issue or something to be afraid of. If only parents could explain in some kind of terms to their children of how others may not be as fortunate as them, approach disabled children and adults when out and about, especially in cafés and places where people gather on a social level. It's great when strangers take the time to simply say "Hi!" as opposed to steering the child with the pointy finger and the loud voice stating "Look at the tiny man! Look!" That's a mild comment...trust me. I've had occasions where I've wanted to react, probably pretty badly but haven't. On other occasions I haven't been able to be so polite. Why should I be? It takes all kinds to make a world. If you are in good health, good spirit and sound mind then be thankful. Nobody knows what lies ahead. Today was a fantastic day and a reminder of why I have little to complain about....and the fact that my fridge is empty of Maltesers really is a very small issue!