Tell Me About it Thursday

            Acceptance of People with Disabilities-Does our society really accept difference?

In the not too distant past, people with disabilities were institutionalised and were subjected to all kinds of horrific 'therapy'. I shudder when I think about electric shock treatment, beatings, starvation and people being put in straight jackets.
It's hard to imagine that this is the way that people with disabilities were treated 30 years ago.
Things have changed, but have attitudes?

Growing up, my only real experience with someone who had a disability was with my 2nd cousin. I can remember feeling really sad for him, and wishing so much that he could walk and do what we did. I often thought I could a longing in his eyes too, but then I don't remember me ever spending much time actually including him in my play.
I can also remember another child at primary school who couldn't talk properly and noone wanted to play with her. She was my friends sister. We used to let her play with us, and again, I can remember feeling really sad for her.
This isn't really that long ago (ok, so it is somewhere on the other side of 20 years ago), so in some ways, I can see that in terms of education and schooling, we have come an awful long way.

Past learning plays a huge role in how we respond to things. And this is why it is so important that we teach our children that difference should be embraced, because that will help form the way people with disabilities will be looked at in the future.

So, do I think that society accepts people with disabilities?
As a general rule, no.
But I do think we are getting better.

There are still many people who come from a time when people with disabilities were locked away. They were separated from society because they looked funny, or made funny noises, and couldn't do things. It was assumed that they couldn't understand anything-can anyone remember the word 'dumb' being used to refer to those with disabilities?
It is hard for people in this generation to change their views. It takes education. And sometimes, they simply cannot see past the disability.
These generations have raised either our parents, or raised us, and unless you have contact with someone with a disability, then often you can't understand what it truly is like.

In some ways that explains why attitudes are so hard to change. Our past still contributes to our present. The attitudes have been formed over time, and they will take some time to change (which is where we come in).

There are many programs that are now community based. Childcare centres and kinders are given support from the government (though it could be so much more) to enable children with disabilities to have access to the same things as everyone else.
Schools are generally becoming better at inclusion. Though still has a long way to go.
The issues still remain though, for what happens when school is finished. But that's another post for another day.

How do we help people accept difference in ability?
By continued education.
By always giving our children every opportunity to experience life that we can.
By not hiding our kids away.
And by us standing up together and saying that WE LOVE SOMEONE WITH A DISABILITY!

So, I turn it over to you guys. If you want to comment, please do. I know that as a parent of a child with a disability you often come across situations that are unpleasant. But there are also times when your child's disability is embraced and celebrated. Anyone want to share their thoughts on this topic???


  1. I always worry about how my daughter will be received by the parents of the "typical" children in her preschool. I worry that they will treat her differently, or not want their children to play with her. However, my husband, who drops her off at school every day, said he watches how the other parents are with her, and that they treat her like any other child and encourage the interactions between her and her friends! I love how things have changed so much, and have not yet ever, in her 4 1/2 years of life, experienced any negative reactions. I guess we're just lucky...?

  2. I am yet to have a truly negative experience (aside from Dr's!) but i anticipate it happening.

    One massive positive happened the other day when i spoke to my niece on her 6th birthday on the phone (she lives 800k's away).

    She asked "does Elliott walk?"
    I said "no, he doesn't"
    she said "does he talk yet?"
    I said "no, he doesn't talk yet, but remember how i told you how Elliott is a bit different to you and i?..he grow's a lot slower than us because that's just the way he was made and he may not ever do those things".
    and she said in her gorgeous 6 year old tone "yeah, and it doesn't matter anyway, it doesn't matter if he can't walk, it doesn't matter if he can't talk, it just doesn't matter."
    I said (with a tear in my eye) "that's so right, and we're going to love him anyway"
    she said "yes i love him very much."

    The one positive thing i have had with me since his diagnosis (@ 10 days old) was the thought of my niece, my nephew's and all my friends children having Elliott in their lives and growing up with an understanding that i and many others didn't and still don't. They'll be better people for knowing him i have no doubt.


  3. Becca- That is wonderful!! I am so glad to hear that people don't experience unpleasant situations. Sometimes I think an unpleasant situation is very much part of an overall culture. For example, we live in a small rural city, so I think that makes a difference, good and bad!

    Liv- I think other kids are just fantastic with difference. So many times when kids have asked why Ryley can't do something, or why he is small, I explain and they just accept it. Easy as that. Yet I have also had the awful experience of a mother telling her children not to go near 'those' kids as they are disabled. Ryley was one of 'those' kids. Talk about ripping my heart out.

    I have to say that as a rule, we have far more positive experiences than negative ones, but it is the negative ones that stay with you.

    Great comments!! Thank you so much!!

  4. Boy Child has an Austism Spectrum Disorder.

    I've found that other children tend to be more accepting than adults. I hope that this will conintue in High School but I doubt it. One thing I have noticed is that adults who have had been outside the box themselves (say with depression for example) can be more accepting than other people. But not always.

    In my own family my Grandmother refers to other people with ASD (and probably other disabilities) she knows of as 'Those People' with generalisations along the lines of "Aren't you glad Boy child is toilet trained becuase most of Those People aren't." I know for her it's a lack of education and exposure but it seems difficult to change your opinion after 70 plus years.

  5. Oh yes, I am grateful that the younger generations of my family are much more accepting of difference.


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