Sunday, 23 August 2015

Why educating others about differences works

A few weeks ago I ventured out to a local  play area with my 3 daughters. Ash and Wren are identical twins and Phoenix has Down syndrome and alopecia. Because of the unique make up of our family we get noticed, a lot.

We generally have very positive experiences in play areas, with other children inviting Phoenix into their play or playing alongside her. This time was no different. However, at the very end an older boy who looked to be 8 or 9 looked  at Phoenix and said to me "She's creepy!"

Because I am also a teacher, it's very natural for me to correct other children's behaviour. So even though I wanted to cry at the cruelty that she was just exposed to, I replied somewhat angrily, "That's not nice! You don't call people creepy because they are different. She's beautiful. It's mean to say that" and took Phoenix home. 

I stewed about the run in for a while then decided to do a post in my local moms group. Not to attack the kid, he was a child after all. But to educate the moms, and to encourage them to initiate conversations with their children about how everyone is different and that different is beautiful. I also provided some information about alopecia. That it's an autoimmune condition which causes your hair to fall out and that it can't be caught. The post was very well received. We had hundreds of comments and positive words of encouragement. 

Weeks later I had brought Phoenix with me to a local store. A little girl passed us while walking with her mother. The girl pointed to Phoenix and yelled "You're bald! You're bald!" 

The mother turned right to her daughter and replied "What did you say? That girl has alopecia. You say sorry right now" and marched her daughter right up to us to apologize, which we graciously accepted.

When I think about this incident I still want to cry, this time because it so clearly illustrated to me that educating others about disabilities and differences works. 

It made a difference that day in how that mom parented her daughter and initiated conversations on a wider scale in our community. It provided understanding about differences. And it left me proud to be a member of a community which is obviously open to learning.

You can also view this post on The here

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