Having worked with children with varying degrees of special needs, from mental health to those with profound and multiple learning disabilities, I have come across many different reactions when out in public. It’s alien to me that people can react so negatively yet it does happen and more often than I notice I am sure. For me, I am able to block it out and just focus on the child or young person in my care, however I can imagine how hard it must be as a parent of a child with special needs to have to tolerate judgements and reactions that might not be particularly favourable. In the past few weeks, due to it being the summer holidays, I have definitely begun to notice this. Imagine being a parent and being up against that every day? I have been told by members of the public to control the child I am working with (autistic meltdown) or comments of “spoilt brat” and similar over the years. I would like to think there is more awareness of autism but people still don’t “get it”. Now, working with a varied bunch of children I have noticed the reactions to children with physical disabilities too. I always thought that invisible disabilities were the worst for public misconception but it seems all disability is subject to it too. Just because someone “looks” disabled, doesn’t mean they are intellectually disabled and even if they are they are still a person who deserves respect.
What can we do to help change public perception? I often talk to people, make conversation (although that is obviously hard when you have to be with a child 1:1!). It makes it easier and breaks the ice I suppose. Talking is probably the key. What I would really love is people allowing their children play and interact with children with disabilities when out in the park or in soft play. There shouldn’t be a them and us. (I would like to add that there are a lot of very tolerant, helpful people who don’t judge. It seems to be the ones who are rude and unkind who stick out most though sadly. I suppose it is because they provoke strong feelings.)
I really want to leave this video as it just shows that you really cannot judge a book by its cover:
Bit of a serious post, but I could write reams and reams on this subject. Mumsnet have begun a fantastic campaign called This Is My Child. For those who are unaware, this campaign is raising awareness of children who have special needs. Read here for more information on this valuable campaign. This infographic is a nice little reminder for people to think before they judge!