There was a time that I worried about making people comfortable around my son. I didn’t want Nate to make too much noise, I wanted him to be quiet and reserved so he would not disturb the peace. When it came to his self stimulatory behavior, I tried to subdue him, as I didn’t want him to cause people to look, as he flapped his hands and arms, flailing them in the air, or hitting himself in his head. When we were out in public or at a gathering with people who didn’t know us, and Nate had to eat, I would move him in an area, away from people, so that I could allow him to eat privately. I didn’t want food to spill out of his mouth and for it too look nasty or to be gross to others. It was my goal to make my son look neat and clean, and normal, so people would not be turned off by his appearance and behavior.
Then one day I was watching a program on a talk show where a woman shared her life without arms or hands. She navigated her world by using her feet. I watched in amazement as the show gave a view of her life, using her feet to eat, drive, brush her child’s hair, and more.
During the segment, the woman sadly shared how there were sad moments in her life. There was one time when she and her family were at a restaurant. Another family felt uncomfortable at her presence and asked to be moved.
I sat angrily, as I watched the woman share that moment. I screamed aloud asking “Is she not to venture out into public? Was she to stay hidden from society? Should she not use her feet?” This was when it hit me, that sadly, there will always be someone who will be uncomfortable, uneasy, or have discomfort, with what they don’t consider “normal,” a person who is disabled. And it could no longer be my duty to hide my child so that others would be more comfortable. Instead, people needed to learn to adjust their hearts and attitudes to those that are disabled, so that they could be more comfortable around them.