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When Children Say Hurtful Things

Rebecca Toal by Rebecca Toal Additional Needs

Rebecca Toal

Rebecca Toal

Blessed, busy mum to four beautiful girls, the youngest with complex special needs due to extreme prematurity. We are always looking for ways to ma...

If you are a parent to a child with special needs, you’re no stranger to unwanted comments or stares from complete strangers…often little children are the perpetrators.

I know for a fact that each one of you has had your fair share of unexpected, unwanted and insensitive words directed at your uniquely wonderful child. How do I KNOW?

Well because that has been our family’s experience, and the shared experience of many other special needs parents I’ve met.

You know, comments like “What’s wrong with her?”   and “why can’t she walk?”

The other day, I was at our favourite indoor soft play with three of my daughters.

My 11 yr old Annabelle is fantastic with her younger sister Brielle. She holds her firmly by the hand and helps her walk about, climb up the soft frames and go down the slides.

Without her big sister, I wouldn’t have the energy or patience to bring Brielle to the soft play! The lovely thing is, that both enjoy the time together.

It’s not a “chore” to Annabelle- she genuinely loves helping her disabled sis to navigate soft play and have fun!

There were two young sisters who started talking with my girls. I found out later that they were asking all sorts of questions about Brielle.

I think Annabelle tried to be matter of fact and casual in her responses. But when we were leaving, I could tell she was markedly hurt and a bit rattled by what the older sister (maybe 7/8 years old) had said.

She told her “I’m glad my sister is normal. I wouldn’t like to have a sister like that”.

Tell me this, how do you deal with this insensitivity??

 I feel quite emotional now, reflecting on these words. But do you know what I told Annabelle? I reassured her that some people in this world, including children, are just plain ignorant...

That means the don’t know what they are saying. This girl had probably not met many people with disabilities, nor had she been taught to treat people with physical limitations with equally and with respect.

What is “normal” anyways? I’m guessing that this girl had no relations or friends with disabilities either, at least that she spends any amount of time with.

So for children, I think a lot of their responses to kids and those with disabilities depends both on their personal exposure and education around disability and differences.

Comments like this can nonetheless be very hurtful.

I think it helps to keep a positive outlook though and focus on what we have to be thankful for, and not give any place to negativity or words that are hurtful in our lives. Shake them off!!

My precious little girl does have more than her fair share of disabilities, but she is LOVED, she is TREASURED, and she is HAPPY!


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