My cousin has two little girls, both with unique needs. One was born with spina bfida and because she uses a wheelchair, has a visible disability. The other daughter has a special need that’s not visible – Type 1 Diabetes. So, in other words, my cousin is a very busy mother!
This past weekend, she brought the girls over for a swim and mentioned an occurrence to me that happens quite frequently when her family is out and about.
While attending an outdoor fair, her daughter who was in her wheelchair was given little stuffy toys by the carnival staff, regardless of whether a game was won or even played. Her other daughter received nothing. It naturally caused my cousin to ask herself a few questions. Is this fair to her daughter who appears “normal”, even though she has her own struggles? What will the impact be on the daughter who seems to be treated favourably because of her disability? Should she make the daughter give up toys she was given to her sister, who was given nothing?
We had a great discussion and I ended up thinking a few things. As a parent of a child with autism, I’ve been a part of a community of parents whose kids are different and, as such, are sometimes treated differently – both good and bad. I’ve come to a few conclusions:
- I think it’s very sweet and kind of people who make unique connections when they see a child who has special needs. Life is NOT going to be as easy for these kiddos and any extra kindness is appreciated.
- Having said that, I think parents of kids with special needs need to make sure that their kids don’t come to EXPECT special treatment from everyone. I went to school with a kid who had a wheelchair and she was the most demanding brat I’ve ever met.
- Parents of kids with disabilities need to make sure that they don’t “feel sorry” for their kids, resulting in giving them too many material things or are too permissive with them. You don’t need a kid with Down syndrome, autism or any physical disability who is also a spoiled brat. I knew a kid who, when he didn’t get what he wanted, would say “Excuse me, but I have autism!” Yes, gross. Someone’s parents didn’t do their kid any favours.
- When it comes to “fairness” between siblings, you really need to explain to your children that things are not fair. I don’t treat my children the same because they are NOT the same. They have different needs. Remind your children that you will never treat them the same. Doing so would be treating them with inequality.
Do you have children who get treated differently by people you encounter in the public? Perhaps one of your kids has beautiful eyes or a lovely nature that attracts the attention of strangers. What is the impact on your other children? Have you had to address comments around “fairness” among your children and how have you handled it?