I remember when I was a teen. I would be in our town with David and people would look away from him. I was really upset and wondered what the big deal was about him. Don’t look away. This is my brother and he is a person like you. I was upset at how much they were missing by not knowing him. I felt great sadness knowing he could be feeling a response to people looking away.
I cannot be so certain that the action of people looking away was all malicious. Perhaps some of those people long ago were just giving David and I some privacy at the grocery store. Maybe not every time someone looks away from David are they being rude or naive. These individuals don’t know David, and I don’t know them. It’s that middle ground we all come into contact with of knowing a lot of our own situations, yet not knowing anything about the realities of the people around us.
I am also grateful for these growth moments because without them, I would have never made the ability dolls, which eventually inspired the I See ABILITY! book and completely shaped my mission to encourage people to really look at every individual as a person with talents and strength and not as scary beings without voices.
Taking the time to think beyond our own stories is what helps us grow. It’s what humbles me and enables me to take a wider approach in my occupational therapy practice, where I train and educate teachers, parents and childcare professionals on seeing the abilities in all children, but also seeing the abilities in themselves to have the tools to handle any reality.
Think back to when you saw a person with a disability in public and how you reacted. Did you look away? Did you stare that individual in the eyes? Did you think about your reaction long after the moment had passed? I am curious to hear your personal stories on the subject, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comment section.