Explaining disability isn’t a child’s job

By Louise Kinross: For Complete Post, Click Here…

What Happened to You? is a new children’s book about a boy with one leg who is besieged with children who ask him what happened, or exclaim “You’ve only got one leg!” Sometimes he doesn’t feel like explaining, so he asks them what they think happened, and they have some pretty outlandish ideas: Was it a shark? A burglar? 

I knew this was an important book when I posted it and my colleague Alison Hughes commented: “I have three copies!!!” Alison is a disabled parent who works in our Holland Bloorview Foundation as Senior Officer of Stewardship, and is always on the lookout for stories that reflect disability to read at home. I wanted to know why Alison rated the book so highly. So we did an interview over e-mail.

BLOOM: What are the key messages of the book?

Alison Hughes: I think this is a super important book for all kids.

For non-disabled kids, the message is ‘It’s not polite to ask someone about their disability before you even know their name. No one owes you their story. You aren’t entitled to have all of your curiosities answered.’ Truthfully, this is an important message for parents to understand too.

For disabled kids, the message is: ‘You don’t owe anyone your story.’ 

It’s important for parents to have these discussions with their children at home. I like what fellow disabled mom Alex Wegman told me about this: Disabled kids don’t owe anyone an explanation. Instead, we teach our kids at home that curiosity is natural, and that sometimes our curiosity just ends with curiosity. People deserve respect regardless of whether we understand why they are the way they are or not. We don’t demand that our curiosity be satisfied before we can give someone the respect they deserve just by virtue of being human.

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