So, yesterday, NB was actually in a chatty mood and was telling the hubby and me all about her music class at school. Suddenly, she stops in the middle of singing one of the songs she learned and gets this really concerned look on her face.
"MOMMA!" She says, "In my song class, there were two boys who had to sit in those sick-people chairs with wheels on them."
"You mean a wheel chair?"
"Yeah, and they were VERY STRANGE. Why were they strange?! It was scary!"
I'm not one-hundred percent sure these particular children had Downs, but the way she described how they looked, that would be my guess. In any case, they were special needs kids.
When she finished up her spiel about how strange and scary they were, Tim just kind of gave me this alarmed look before backing out of the conversation completely. It was seriously like, "Uh... well, I gotta go ........ do dishes.. ahem"
I told her that there wasn't anything WRONG with the boys and that they weren't SICK. They were just different and that that was ok and nothing to be scared about. Which was met with, "But MOM! They were like.... zombies, and zombies are scary!" NB has obviously inherited my tendency to be over-dramatic about things.
So, what I need is some words that I can use to explain special needs kids to NB in a way that she will understand. Am I expecting too much of her to be more compassionate and understanding of their differences at her age? How would you explain something like that to a small child?
If they were in wheel chairs there was more going on than Downs Syndrome.
I would just talk about how everybody's body is different. Some people are tall, some people are short. People weigh different amounts. Some people were born with bodies that make it hard for them to do things like walk, and the wheel chair helps them get around. This is why they get special parking spots near the doors of public buildings too. Sometimes it's harder for people to do things like you can do, run and jump and play, but that doesn't mean they can't come to music class and sing or enjoy listening to the singing. Some people can play soccer really, really well and go to the World Cup, other people, like me, play soccer too but not as well, and no matter how hard I practiced my body would just not be able to do those things.
Sometimes people who look differently than us can seem scary, especially when grown ups (no offense to your spouse) act like these differences are shameful and hard to talk about. But these people are just different, not scary, and if you talked to a kid in wheelchair you'd probably find things you have in common. Sometimes it's frustrating for the kid who is in the wheelchair to have people stare at them, or treat them like they are scary, they are just another person and everybody looks different and unique but that doesn't mean we can't introduce ourselves and be friends.
Smudge and I have already talked about this, he was interested in the signs outside the gym and why they were there. This is an important issue to me, and I find that much of what makes people "scary" to others is when adults act like it is shameful to talk about why they are different, like how white adults don't want to discuss race so children believe it is a bad taboo topic.