I find that, right now, folks don’t really hesitate to treat my son with respect and kindness. He’s young enough and sweet enough to where they essentially treat him like a little child. They coo over him and talk to him in baby talk. Which is fine because he loves the attention. He’s a cute child and people like interacting with a cute child.
I can’t help but wonder what happens when he gets older. What if his cognitive abilities never get beyond those of a child? Will people still treat him with the same love and kindness?
When he’s taller and lankier, and physically looks like a young man. Will there be that same level of love?
When he’s a teen and showing the faintest trace of a wispy mustache. Will people still be kind to him and love him the way they do when he’s a child?
I think it’s easy, as adults, to interact with children with disabilities because we can default to how we interact with smaller children in general. But when kids get to be teens, we struggle to figure out exactly how to interact with them. Should we treat them as equals? Should we default back to the way we treat children?
And I think sometimes, intentionally or not, this results in isolation for children with disabilities and their parents. It's becoming easier not to interact with these folks rather than risk making a mistake or making yourself feel uncomfortable in interacting with an individual with a disability.
I get it. I don’t like it. But I get it.
But either way, every time I see someone be overly kind or sweet to my son I just wonder whether that will continue. And how I can prepare him emotionally, just in case it doesn’t.
And let me be clear—I’m not looking for people to go out of their way to interact with my son as he gets older. I just want them to treat him with the dignity and respect he deserves as a person. If that makes any sense at all. I don’t want them to avoid interacting with him.
He’ll still be the same person. I hope people recognize that.
As our kids grow, there are many life transitions. There are also many ways to provide support and care for the person they are. Here are some real life stories and information on building a personal network.