My son relies on a variety of medical devices, including a custom wheelchair. I have learned so much about equipment and services just by asking questions of other parents.
Talking to strangers doesn’t come easily for me. I am a reserved and quiet person by nature. But when it comes to getting things my son needs, I have overcome my shyness.
My son cannot speak for himself, so I need to speak up for him. These days, I don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation with a person using a wheelchair or other type of medical equipment.
Medical devices naturally get worn down with daily use. They need a lot of tinkering and adjusting. Parents get creative to keep devices running. I often marvel at how parents think outside the box. They seem happy for the chance to share their innovations. They are even a little proud of themselves.
Many of us have experienced being stared at in public. I certainly don’t want people to feel like I am doing that. So, I step right up and say, “Can I ask you about your wheelchair? My son uses a chair also.” Every time, I see faces light up. In a public space where we might otherwise be stared at or ignored, we’ve formed a connection.
The benefits of that connection flow both ways. I am getting valuable information and new ideas. The other parent is getting a chance to show off their expertise. And we both benefit from the sense of kinship, the feeling that we’re in this together.
Another thing I like about these interactions is that they focus on the positive. I am not asking about a disability, diagnosis or injury. I’m not inquiring about what went wrong. This is not the idle curiosity of a stranger. I am another parent looking for answers and solutions for my child.
Some things make it easier to approach people I don’t know. Of course, I always start with a smile. I always greet the person in the wheelchair before the parent or attendant. I find out if it’s ok to ask a question about their equipment. It could be a sensitive topic for some people. I keep questions specific and simple, such as “Do you like that headrest?” In return, I always share our family’s experience too.
The give and take of information has also led to new discoveries. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a child using an eye gaze device to communicate. An eye gaze device is a form of assisted communication for people who are nonspeaking. His mother was excited and enthusiastic about the device and happy that I asked about it. She started us on the path, and after a few years, my son now has his own eye gaze device.
Approaching strangers about medical equipment may feel awkward at first. It gets easier the more you do it. And the benefits definitely outweigh the discomfort.
So much can be learned by connecting with other parents.
As the parent of a child with mild Cerebral Palsy, I learned that the word “hurry” doesn’t apply to my son, Jason. With motor planning difficulties, hurrying just wasn’t something he could do. I learned to adapt and accommodate our schedule to allow extra time. However, when I found myself in the situation of caring for elderly parents & parents-in-law, and our son, I struggled to find the patience I once had with Jason.
Categories: Family Support