When kids ask questions about my disability

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Kids can ask embarrassing questions. Having muscular dystrophy you start to get the questions about the same time you start to walk funny. I find it happens most often in the grocery store when the kids are strapped in cart with nothing better to do than look, point, and say, “Mommy, why does he get to use that car to go around the store?!?”

Naturally the mom is usually really embarrassed but personally I take no offense when a kid asks a question about something that is new or different to them. It’s natural. They don’t know the answer. Often the parents don’t even know the answers. It’s uncharted territory.

I am never offended, put off, or angry when a kid (or even an adult) asks me questions about my disability or muscular dystrophy. If you do get offended, get over it. You’re going to have to deal with it for a long time so you might as well educate people instead of make it seem like everyone with a disability has a chip on their shoulder.

Whenever a kid asks me a question about my disability, I take it to be a teachable moment for both the kids and the parents and it’s very easy to do and here’s how.

1. Smile.
This is so important because it puts everyone at ease and shows immediately that you are not offended by the question.

2. Put your answer in terms the kid will understand.
I usually just say, “Well my legs don’t work the right way so I have to use these wheels to get around instead of walking.” ┬áMost of the time I don’t even get a follow-up question but sometimes you get a really inquisitive kid who just wants to know everything. Fortunately the parent usually tells the kid they have to go and the conversation ends there.

3. If the parent apologizes tell them it’s not a big deal.
This is the teachable moment for the parent. I think curiosity in kids is a great way for them to keep learning. I’d hate for the interaction to be an opportunity for the parent to inadvertently teach the kid it’s not okay to ask questions, when it is.

After a while of dealing with the questions you eventually get your stock answers. There are times when someone will ask something I’ve never been asked before but those times are much more rare now. So have fun answering the questions now that you now how!

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